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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2007 » October

October 2007


Family October 26th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

According to Hitwise the top ten Halloween costume searches for the 4 weeks ending 10/20/07 are as follows:

  • hannah montana costume
  • master chief costume
  • pirate costume
  • wonder woman costume
  • little red riding hood costume
  • hannah montana halloween costume
  • tinkerbell costume
  • pippi longstocking costume
  • flapper costume
  • raggedy ann costume

What costume are you planning to use for this year? Do you make or buy?

My good friend Force Drainer went out as a scary demon last year (yeah, that's him in the picture) and won a few contests, not sure what he plans on doing this year.

One thing he did tell me is that he is putting together some sort of contest for kids in CT where they can win a chance to have a Star Wars character join them on their trick-or-treating excursion.

What about me? I am always the guy who stays home and hands out the candy. One year I hid in the yard with my lightsaber replica and jumped out at kids to scare them when they approached the front door! Yeah, that was a lot of fun.

Gadgets October 26th, 2007 by Stephen
SanDisk

MILPITAS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SanDisk® Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK) announced the filing of three patent infringement actions against 25 companies that manufacture, sell and import USB flash drives, CompactFlash cards, multimedia cards, MP3/media players and/or other removable flash storage products. The actions, filed in the United States District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin and in the United States International Trade Commission (“ITC”), allege that the defendants have infringed various SanDisk system-level patents, and seek damages and a permanent injunction in the federal court actions, as well as a permanent exclusion order from the ITC banning importation of the products into the United States.

“These actions demonstrate SanDisk’s long-term commitment to enforcing its patents, both to protect our investment in research and development by obtaining a fair return on that investment, and out of fairness to third-parties that participate in our patent licensing program,” said E. Earle Thompson, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel at SanDisk. “Our goal is to resolve these matters by offering the defendants the opportunity to participate in our patent licensing program for card and system technology. Otherwise, we will aggressively pursue these actions, seeking a prompt judicial resolution awarding damages, obtaining injunctive relief and banning importation of infringing product.”

In the ITC action, SanDisk is suing numerous companies for infringement of five SanDisk patents, including:

  • ACP-EP Memory
  • A-Data
  • Apacer
  • Behavior Computer (d/b/a Emprex)
  • Buffalo
  • Chipsbank
  • Corsair Memory
  • Dane-Elec
  • Edge
  • Imation/Memorex
  • Interactive Media (d/b/aKanguru)
  • Kaser
  • Kingston
  • LG Electronics
  • Phison Electronics
  • PNY
  • PQI
  • Silicon Motion
  • Skymedi
  • Transcend
  • TSR (d/b/a T.One)
  • USBest
  • Verbatim
  • Welldone Company
  • Zotek/Zodata (d/b/a Huke)

In the first Wisconsin District Court case, SanDisk is suing numerous companies for infringement of the five patents also at issue in the ITC complaint, including:

  • ACP-EP Memory
  • A-Data
  • Apacer
  • Behavior Computer (d/b/a Emprex)
  • Buffalo
  • Chipsbank
  • Corsair Memory
  • Dane-Elec
  • Edge
  • Imation/Memorex
  • Interactive Media (d/b/a Kanguru)
  • Kingston
  • LG Electronics
  • Phison Electronics
  • PNY
  • PQI
  • Silicon Motion
  • Skymedi
  • Transcend
  • TSR (d/b/a T.One)
  • USBest
  • Verbatim
  • Welldone Company
  • Zotek/Zodata (d/b/a Huke).

In the second Wisconsin District Court case, SanDisk is suing numerous companies for infringement of an additional two patents that are not involved in the ITC action or the first Wisconsin District Court case, including:

  • A-Data
  • Apacer
  • Behavior Computer (d/b/a Emprex)
  • Buffalo
  • Dane-Elec
  • Kingston
  • Phison Electronics
  • PQI
  • PNY
  • Skymedi
  • Silicon Motion
  • Transcend
  • USBest
  • Verbatim
  • Zotek/Zodata (d/b/a Huke)

SanDisk is the original inventor of flash storage cards and is one of the world’s largest suppliers of flash data storage card products, using its patented, high-density flash memory and controller technology. SanDisk is headquartered in Milpitas, California, and has operations worldwide, with more than half its sales outside the United States.

Social Media October 26th, 2007 by Stephen
SpinVox

Have you ever been in a situation where you want to post something online to your Facebook, Twitter or Jaiku account but you are no where near a computer? As long as you have access to a telephone you can now use SpinVox to post that message.

In February 2007 SpinVox launched the Spin-my-Blogâ„¢ service which allowed a blogger to dial a number and post to their blog using their phone. The service takes the users speech and converts it to text which ends up on the users blog. Using this service a blogger can very easily live blog from anywhere.

Building on what they created in the past SpinVox now allows you to use the same system to post to your Facebook, Twitter and Jaiku accounts. I have to be honest here, You can do the same thing through an SMS text message. So, why would you want to use their service? For one thing if you do not have an SMS enabled phone this service will allow you to post to your Twitter using any phone.

Don't take my word for it, try it out for yourself. Right now SpinVox is offering 10,000 free accounts to new members. These accounts get you everything SpinVox offers except VoiceMail.

What do you have to lose?

Games October 26th, 2007 by Stephen
Metroid Prime 3

I still remember way back in the mid 1980's when I saved up my money to purchase the original Metroid. Back then we did not have fancy game graphics or amazing controller schemes. All we had was D-Pad and a couple of buttons. You know what? It worked.

Metroid purists do love the original Metroid game for the NES but they also admit that it was hard. Instead of save points in the game you had to get by with writing down codes on a piece of paper. The paper served as a memory stick, each letter transcribed meant something to the video game and the code as a whole was just a memory dump. Even though the game was hard I beat it. I then played it through a second time after having Samus remove her helmet.

Arguably the very best game in the Metroid franchise has to be Super Metroid for the SNES. I did not experience that game when it came out but I have since purchased it on the Wii Virtual Console. The maps are based on what I remember from the original game but it is a lot easier and more forgiving. Back when I played the original Metroid game it was a painful grind to refill your depleted energy tanks, not so much in later games.

The Prime series of games began with the Game Cube. The series took Samus out of the side scrolling environment we all knew and put her in a quasi-FPS game. I do not consider the Prime line of games to be true FPS games because even though you do shoot at space pirates the core of any Metroid game is problem solving, not combat.

Metroid Prime was a great game and I greatly enjoyed it. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, eh, not so much. Due to the dark imagery in the early part of the game I found myself unable to play it without getting motion sickness-induced nausea. Knowing my experience with Prime 2 I was a bit nervous about picking up Corruption. Would I be able to play it? Would I get sick playing it and hurl all over the Wii?

I took the plunge and picked up a copy. After a little bit of playing I found that I was fine, as long as I didn't do anything to make myself dizzy that is.

The Game Begins

The first thing we see when the game begins is the inside of Samus's ship. In the past this ship has not been used for much more than a glorified saving and refueling station. It was nice to be able to see the inside of the ship and interact with it.

Metroid Prime 3: in the cockpit

After landing on the Federation Command Frigate we enter the beginning tutorial mode of all of the Prime games. As you walk around the ship the game begins to introduce you to the controls of the game. By the time you make it to the command deck for your briefing you should be in full control of Samus.

After the briefing all hell breaks loose and you have to get back to your ship. This is Metroid so you know right away that it will not be an easy stroll back. Instead you will find your pathway blocked by attacking Space Pirates. After a few detours and battles you will fight a mini-boss. After you win you will head down to the planet to help in the defense.

From here forward you will be in classic Metroid Prime land.

Controls

There are several options for setting up the controls for the game. If you are familiar with mouse and keyboard FPS games you should have no problem adjusting to the Wii-Remote and Nunchuk control system.

To make a long story short the stick is used to move Samus while the Wii-Remote is used to aim and turn Samus. Up on the stick is always the direction Samus is facing. Unlike in Zelda where there is no way to turn around in place with Metroid you can. Just don't turn to fast or use your Wii-Remote hand to scratch your ear or you will run the risk of getting dizzy.

The placement of the buttons is good with one exception. You use the minus button to change visors and the plus button to enter Hyper-Mode. Too many times I accidentally entered Hyper-Mode while trying to switch visors. Not a big deal but you should be aware of it.

This game also adds in the ability to actually operate switches and buttons. You will find yourself grabbing, twisting, pushing and pulling all manner of switches to progress through the game. Some switches are more obvious than others in their usage.

Metroid Prime 3: Grapple Beam

Once you acquire the grapple beam you will be able to grab things using the nunchuk. You can use this to swing like Tarzan or to rip enemies out of the sky.

As is to be expected Samus does not begin with a full complement of weapons. This is a good thing because as you acquire new weapons and gear you receive instructions on how to use them. If all of these weapons were thrust upon you from the start the learning curve would be steeper.

Weapons and Gear

So, what sort of weapons do you get? You start with the basic blaster and morph-ball. During the initial part of the game you will acquire the missile upgrade. Most of the upgrades you expect to receive are in the game but so is one special one, the PED suit.

After saving Noria from destruction Samus is given a Phazon Enhancement Device (PED) that harnesses the Phazon within her and puts her into a state called Hypermode. In Hypermode, Samus can destroy Phazon impediments and annihilate enemies with superpowered weapons ... but it drains her health to use it. If she doesn't empty her Phazon meter within a certain time frame she risks utter corruption under the control of Dark Samus. This weapon is activated by pressing the plus button and is an essential item in the game. Do not be afraid to use it!

Samus is not the only one to receive upgrades. Your ship also receives upgrades throughout the game and is used for more than a glorified save point.

Two such upgrades your ship recieves include bombs and a grapple beam. Both of these upgrades are used in the game and can be ativated via your command visor.

Gameplay

Once you get used to the controls the game play becomes very immersive. The voice acting is very well done and the environments are well detailed. To all those out there who call the Wii a glorified Game Cube, you know what? I don't care. The graphics may not be HD but playing the game on a standard-Def TV looks great. Couple that with great environmental music and you have a game that draws you right in.

Interacting with the environment in Metroid Prime 3

There are two difficulty settings for the game, normal and veteran. If you like Metroid for the puzzles than play on normal. If you like Metroid because you want to kill things then play on veteran. The puzzles are the same either way but the game is very easy on the normal setting.

The game has a fair amount of backtracking but a plethora of landing spots for your ship insures that no area is more than a few minutes walk from a landing pad. Lucky for us thick players if a room requires you to have something that you do not have the game will tell you this. No need to sit around all day beating your head against the wall because you can't figure out why you can't access an area of the game not knowing you need a special item first.

The boss critters are moderately challenging in battle but you should not have too much difficulty in figuring out how to beat them. The hard part comes in figuring out how to replenish your supplies while beating said creature.

Achievements

One often overlooked portion of the game is that you can unlock achievements as you play. There is a basic system in place to share achievements with friends over Nintendo Connect.

For example, once you kill 400 enemies you will be told that you have earned the 400 dead achievement. You can earn these for all sorts of things but they do not add anything to the game play, just bragging rights.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Nintendo Wii
    The Bad

  • No Multi-Player - I know Echoes had a very basic and not very good multi-player system tacked on but still, I want some Metroid multi-player action!
  • Needs a Quick-Save Feature - Sometimes you just need to stop playing. Be it dinner, homework or a wife that wants your attention. I know that having too many save points can make a game too easy but sometimes you just want to do a quick-save and get back into the game a few hours later.
  • Slow doors that take more than 15 seconds to open after being shot.
    The Good

  • Exceptional Controls - If you thought the controls for Zelda were good you will love the controls for this game. Using the Wii-Remote as a pointer and the nunchuk for moving blows away any dual analog-stick control system out there. The only thing better would be mouse and keyboard support.
  • Great Story - The story behind the game is excellent. The Hunters from the DS title make an appearance and are useful. There is a ton of lore hidden throughout the game that does a great job in fleshing out the Metroid universe.
  • Great Pacing - Nothing kills a game faster than bad pacing. Metroid's pacing is very good and you should be able to complete the game in under 20 hours.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Game Guide): Nintendo Wii

Conclusion

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is a great ender to the Prime trilogy. If you have a Wii and you like FPS/puzzle games you should invest in a copy of this game.

The graphics is the best currently on the Wii and I never noticed any lagging or loading issues.

If you would rather not purchase a new copy of this game you can purchase a Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Pre-Played copy from GameFly.

Games October 25th, 2007 by Stephen

Nintendo has just released their financial data for the six months ending on September 30, 2007. Among all of the financial data about income, expenses and stock prices I found some information on hardware and software sales:

All numbers are in tens of thousands

Hardware Apr-Sept 06 sales Apr-Sept 07 sales Life-Sept 07 sales
Game Boy Advance 166 102 8,048
Game Boy Advance Software 1,980 638 37,263
Nintendo DS 1,009 1,335 5,364
DS software 4,316 7,550 25,948
Game Cube 35 8 2,166
Game cube software 898 185 20,774
Wii 0 733 1,317
Wii software 0 3,697 6,581

The Wii has clearly taken over as the top selling hardware and software spot at Nintendo. In less than one years time the Wii has sold over 50% of the total lifetime sales of the Game Cube.

With a ton of new games to be released for the Wii and DS I can't see much of anything stopping the Nintendo Juggernaut!




Internet October 24th, 2007 by Stephen

On Monday October 15th, the Connecticut DPUC voted to deny AT&T’s request for a video franchise. This request was made on the heels of landmark legislation passed this summer by the Legislature and signed by the Governor that would bring video choice to consumers. AT&T was well on its way to investing $336 million in the state over 3 years to bring its U-verse video service to customers.

Regrettably, the decision by the DPUC will push AT&T out of this business, harming consumers, workers, and the Connecticut economy.

    Time Line

  • June, 2006, the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) ruled that AT&T’s U-verse video service was not a “cable service” and that AT&T was not required to obtain a cable TV franchise to provide the service. With that ruling, AT&T began offering U-verse in Connecticut in December 2006.
  • The Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) and Cable Companies opposed the DPUC’s June 2006 decision and appealed it to Federal Court.
  • June, 2007, the Connecticut Legislature passed legislation to ensure competition in the video marketplace regardless of the type of technology used to provide the service. This legislation was intended to resolve the uncertainty created by the federal court appeal. By an overwhelming margin, the Legislature passed a technology neutral law which establishes the franchising rules for new entrants to the Connecticut video market.
  • July, 2007, Governor Rell signed the new legislation, acknowledging in her press release the significant benefits to the state.
  • October 1, 2007, AT&T Connecticut filed an application for a video franchise pursuant to the new law. The new law provides that any entity -- other than the incumbent cable company already possessing a state-issued franchise on October 1st (the effective date of the law) – may apply for a certificate of video franchise authority.
  • October 9, 2007 the Federal Court ruled on the appeal of the DPUC’s June 2006 order. The Federal Court overturned the DPUC’s order, and determined that U-verse is a cable service under federal law. The Federal Court ruling did not, however, determine the particular franchising rules that apply in Connecticut, because that is a matter left to states, not to the federal government.
  • October 15, 2007, the DPUC wrongly denied AT&T’s October 1st competitive video franchise request, reasoning that since the Federal Court found that AT&T’s U-verse is a cable service, AT&T is precluded from applying for a certificate under the new law, and therefore must obtain a traditional incumbent cable TV franchise.
  • October 16, 2007, AT&T challenged in state court the DPUC’s decision, pointing out that AT&T applied for its franchise under the new technology-neutral Act, and since it was not a franchised cable provider as of October 1, 2007, it is entitled to seek a certificate of video franchise authority -- regardless of whether its service is a cable service. A hearing date has been set for October 26th.

The Federal Court ruling (October 9, 2007) did not affect the state’s legislative authority to decide what franchising requirements apply in Connecticut. Federal law gives the states the authority to decide what those requirements are.

The Court only overturned the DPUC’s June 2006 Decision that AT&T’s U-verse is not a cable service. AT&T has filed a Motion to Vacate this order because the new state law supercedes the DPUC’s June 2006 Decision.

HOWEVER, under the new state law, it doesn’t matter if U-verse is a cable service. AT&T Connecticut is eligible for a certificate of video franchise authority AS LONG AS it was not a cable company possessing a state-issued franchise on October 1st. In addition, the new law even allows an existing cable company to apply to be a newly licensed provider under the new rules in any area where it is not providing service today. The technology used to provide the service is irrelevant; it only matters if a provider was licensed to provide service in an area prior to October 1st.

AT&T Connecticut did not possess a state-issued franchise on October 1st. Thus, AT&T is entitled to a certificate of video franchise authority under the new state law.

Just like federal law allows states to have different market entry approaches to the local phone market by local phone competitors, the Connecticut Legislature permitted new video entrants (whether called “cable” or something else) a different entry approach to the video market compared to that of the incumbent cable company. The state is the franchising authority – not the federal government.

The legislators who wrote the bill knew full well about the 2006 DPUC decision and the then-pending federal appeal. As Rep. Fontana and Sen. Fonfara wrote to the DPUC endorsing our application: “Obviously the General Assembly could have taken no action, yet we believed no action represented a lose-lose situation. If AT&T were successful in the litigation it would not be required to follow important consumer protections. While if the cable industry and the Office of Consumer Counsel were successful, AT&T would be forced from the market and consumers would be denied a competitive choice. Neither of those scenarios was in the best interest of the consumers and people of the state of Connecticut.”

Some people might ask why AT&T does not persue a state-wide cable franchise? They can't. For one thing it can take up to two years to acquire a franchise. The other problem is that you can not "build as you go" under those rules. The existing cable franchise rules in CT require you to have everything installed before selling the service.

Besides, they do not have to. The legislation that was just passed allows companies like AT&T to offer video services in state without having to complete the build before selling service. In todays market who can afford to build out the infrastructure 100% before making the first sale?

This is simply a case of the Cable Companies not wanting competition. The ironic part is that back in 1996 when Cable Companies started offering POTS to their customers they had no sympathy for the Telcos who were forced to work under far more stringent rules than those companies that were entering the market. Now the tables have turned on the Cable Companies and they do not like it.

The new law in CT is a good one and it applies to AT&T. If you would like to get involved you can contact your legislator and your local newspaper. Call the DPUC and tell them you are outraged: 860-827-1553

Visit the website: www.CTTVChoice.org

Internet October 24th, 2007 by Stephen

Google has always been against paid links and the idea of selling Page Rank. Recently they have become more aggressive in lowering the Page Rank of sites that sell paid links.

Take for example Text Link Ads. This service, which matches link sellers with link buyers, has been removed from the Google search indexes. The only way for them to get included in Google's search results is by buying ads via Google AdWords.

One of the biggest "Make Money Online" blogs, Johnchow.com has seen his Page Rank drop from a six to a four over the last few weeks. John has had other problems with Google in the past. Earlier in the year he ran a "review me for a link" program that he used to Google Bomb himself to the top of the "Make Money Online" search result. Afterwards Google dropped him from their index. If you do a search for "John Chow" you will not see his website.

In a recent article on Search Engine Land Danny Sullivan pointed out some of the extreme cases of Google penalizing a site for selling links. The most prominent example is the Stanford Daily News that went from a PR9 to a PR7.

Because Page Rank is owned by Google it is completely up to them how they assign it to websites. However, by making the existence of Page Rank public and telling webmasters how it works they create a situation where people will want to use that system to increase the traffic to their sites or the income from their sites. Google could very quickly kill the incentive to sell paid links to pass on Page Rank simply by making Page Rank an internal only metric. If no one knows what their Page Rank is no one will be able to game the system or sell paid links based on it.

Google is completely within its rights to penalize the Page Rank of any site it chooses for any reason it chooses, however, removing a site from the search index is not a good idea. If I am searching for something specific (text link ads) and the site does not come up on top I am going to suspect a problem with Google's ability to search the web and deliver to me relevant results. If Google were a search company they would care about this. Sadly, Google is not a search company, they are an advertising company that tells people it is a search company.

Keep your eyes open if you follow SEO and Page Rank, some of my sites have just been hit with Page Rank updates and the ones that sold Paid Links all suffered.

Data is checked via UrlTrends and Smart PageRank

For further reading I suggest you go to Andy Beard's blog and Daily Blog Google Tips

Update
A reader emailed me to suggest that part of the Google Page Rank change may be attributed to Netscape Propeller. When they did the move several weeks ago they went from a PR 9 site to a PR 0 site. All links coming from Netscape have now been adjusted to be worth 0PR. How many of the sites suffering now were high profile on the old Netscape?

TV Shows October 23rd, 2007 by HMTKSteve

HeroesLast night's episode of Heroes was very interesting. Not only did we meet a few new characters but we also learned just how small the Heroes world is.

Mohinder was sent out on a mission to talk to a new hero and we find that it is a character we already know whose powers have only recently manifested. We found out who the nightmare man is. We know that somebody intended to retrieve Peter from the shipping container. Those points are important but they also open up new questions.

Let's look at Mohinder first. He was given an assignment to talk to a new hero. Wait a minute? How does the agency know when a new hero gains their powers? If they already have this ability why did they need Molly to find people? Why do they need to tag heroes at all?

What about Matt's dad? He is the nightmare man and able to kill with that power. I now believe that no one was on the roof with Hiro's father but that he was instead caught in a nightmare and jumped off the roof. Same thing with Mrs. Petrelli, when Mark broke into the holding cell there was no one else there; she was causing her own wounds! This leads me to believe that the nightmare man can reach across vast distances to implant thoughts, suggestions and nightmares.

What about Peter? Who is this new girl that is looking for him? Why was Peter shipped off to Ireland in the first place? Peter is practically Superman!!! No shipping container will hold him!

I can't help but feel that the second season of Heroes is a show in search of a plot. While in Season one we met the heroes and saved the world I do not know what the point of season two is, do you?

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