Monday, October 30, 2006

xbox 360 mods banned?

it looks like ms has been banning people for using mod chips on their xbox 360s. they are doing this because, at this time, the only reason to use the 360 mod chips is to play illegal copies of games or remove the region protection so that one can run games from other regions.

this has nothing to do with modding actual games. modding games - as I've written way too many times - is great as long as you're not doing it to cheat. any chance I get, I'll remind everyone that modding is not the same as cheating! if you go on xbox live and play a mod, then hell ya - you're cheating. but that's not what most good modders are doing.

many modders are out there creating cool mods that they enjoy on their own LANs. i.e. when everyone knows that they're playing a mod. they're not trying to level up like a wuss or play an illegal copy of fusion frenzy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

halo 3 info coming

go to for impending info. about halo 3.

they aren't giving out much info. yet, but they did let slip that the mongoose is back and there will be a new type of grenade called the spike.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

schools ban tag

this topic is way off my regular routine, but it's just so ridiculous that I can't resist. some schools in the US are banning tag and other "contact sports" during recess. although this story makes me shake my head, I've seen this sort of logic applied to university students - more about that in a second.

first of all, calling tag a "contact sport" is enough to show the lack of logic in these bans. the people responsible say that they have made these decisions in the name of safety. I used to work with young children, and I used to lifeguard. no matter what you do, kids will still fall down and get bumps and bruises. the plain truth is that kids get hurt - they get hurt a lot. BTW - when I was growing up, I saw far more injuries in gym class than I saw during recess.

personally, I agree with the idea that kids need to learn how to play safely together. as Manhattanville College education professor, Rhonda Clements said, through play "They learn to change and to problem-solve." as for the argument that unsupervised kids can't be trusted to resist the temptation to resort to full contact, I have two points to make:

1. my understanding is that all schools have some sort of supervision during recess. so it's not true to say that the children aren't supervised at all. if there are schools out there that have no supervision during recess, then that should be addressed. kids need to be protected from the outside world far more than they need to be protected from one another.

2. if this is really a move to curtail bullying, then it should be dealt with properly. don't punish all of the kids because of the bullies.

now onto the university example. while working at a residence advisor, I was unfortunate enough to be working when the administration decided to enforce a ridiculous student party policy. at the residence in question, party organizers were already obliged to fill out paperwork and ask for permission before they could host a party - after the rule change, things crossed the line of reason. one of the new rules was that no more than 25 people could attend a party at any time. that's 25 people out of a house of about 200 and a residence of over 1100.

the new rules had one effect, the parties moved off residence grounds. and maybe that was the point all along. if the party isn't at the residence, then the administration isn't responsible for what happens there.

in other words, let the kids play somewhere else.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Xbox 360 saved my iPod

as with many other first generation iPod owners, I find that my device is pretty much useless unless it is plugged in. there is a flaw that has significantly limited the battery life. this problem is so prevalent that a successful class action suit was launched against apple - although they are trying to weasel out of paying my settlement.

but then along came the Xbox 360 and its out of the box support for iPods and other music sources. all I had to do was plug my iPod into one of the Xbox 360's USB ports and presto! I actually have a use for my iPod. it's now a fixture in the living room - not exactly what they had in mind when they made it, but it works.

despite the great press, there were other issues with the original iPods, and some of them have been addressed. for example, it used to be that the "On The Go" playlist was erased every time you connected your iPod to iTunes - now that was annoying. but it was fixed fairly quickly. other problems have not been addressed. a good example is gapless playback. I doubt this occurs on the solid state iPods, but if you have a hard drive version, you probably know what I'm talking about. there is an almost inexplicable delay as the iPod searches the hard drive for the next song. there is even an online petition to try to convince apple to add this feature. issues like this are the reason why I bought a creative MuVo for running. the MuVo is great, and the fact that it stills works after I accidentally ran it through a wash cycle, makes me even happier that I bought it.

microsoft is about to launch the zune portable media player to compete with the iPod. lots of people have said - in a knee-jerk fashion - that microsoft is wasting their time, that there is no way that they can compete with the iPod. well I tend to agree with one dimension of those statements, it will be tough to compete with the almost religious fervor that surrounds the iPod. I'll admit that I was disappointed by the original iPod. other than the size of the drive, I didn't think that it was as useful as my 1998 diamond Rio.

from that experience, I feel that I gained an objective view. but for many people, the iPod was their first MP3 player, so they didn't know that things could be even better. I can see that iPods have cool interfaces - but also that these interfaces aren't as easy to use with 6000 songs on the device. I can see that iPods are important to apple, and I'd like to see great companies like apple do well. but, I can also see that there are plenty of features that aren't available on iPods, if other players offer those features, I wonder what the devout will say?

iTunes 7 appears to be trying to address the gapless issue - at least in iTunes - because I'm currently waiting as it's "Determining Gapless Playback Information" for the 5929 songs on my iPod. oh wait... the battery died near the end :P

but I don't want to complain... thanks to the Xbox 360, I can actually use my iPod for something other than car trips.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

AR book screenshot

I thought I'd share this figure from the augmented reality (AR) book that I'm working on for the pragmatic bookshelf. it's in a section about setting up a webcam for AR - the little critter is a dilute calico field mouse... er, I mean kitten.

update: sadly, this image was cut :(