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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2008 » December

December 2008

Technology December 19th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

I don't ask for much out of Microsoft and their Vista software. As long as I can run the programs I want to when I want to I'm pretty satisfied. in fact I don't even notice that I'm running Vista except when I try to do something that requires admin rights.

When something I want to do does require admin rights I am treated to a black screen for about 15 - 20 seconds and then I get a small pop-up asking me if I want to continue or not. I find it mildly annoying when it happens but it does not happen frequently enough for me to be bothered by it.

Updates and reboots? well, those are a horse of a different breed!

See that little message on the right? I got that a few minutes ago while I was doing some work on my server via telnet. No where is there a "DO NOT REBOOT" option. What is wrong with these people? Not only do I not want to reboot but I can't reboot because I am using my computer to work on a remote system.

Most good pieces of software give you the option to reboot later, not this one. It only allows me to postpone notification of the reboot for 10 minutes, one hour or four hours.

What did I do? I did what any tech savy computer user would do. I went into the taskmanager and found the offending updater program and killed the process. The offending program is wuaclt.exe (Windows Update Automatic Updates). I felt a momentary feeling of pride as I watched the process die only to have my hopes crushed when the program quickly respawned itself.

When I look at what I use my computer for I can't help but notice that everything I do can be done with Linux. That's right Microsoft, everything I use a computer for can be done without Windows. The only reason I have not replaced Vista with Linux on my machine is that it is a laptop and I just know some things will not work. However, when I purchase my next machine you can put good money down that I will select an operating system that does not force reboots on me when I am trying to get work done.

Games and video games December 14th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

My first experience with Fallout was with the original PC game way back in 1997 when Interplay released the original game. I still have my spiral bound Vault-Tec manual somewhere in my game room. I have to admit that I was never able to save the Vault. I tried hard to fix the water purifier but I just kept on getting killed by Rad Scorpions while trying to cross the desert.

I did not play any of the other games in the series because I moved away from PC gaming for most of the following eight years. I still dabbled in the occasional RPG game but with a growing family I found myself with little time to devote to PC gaming. As my daughter grew up I spent most of my gaming time among the Pokemon, Kirby and Spongebob.

When I heard about Fallout 3 being released in the FPS format I was nervous. I had developed a problem with FPS games (nausea) and I was worried that I would be unable to play this new version of the game. I was also concerned that some of the feel of the game would be gone with the move to real time and 3D. Those worries were all unfounded. Fallout 3 is not only a great game but it is also true to its roots. (more…)

TV Shows December 13th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

One of my favorite genre's for T.V, movies and video games has to be post-apocalyptic. I'll even suffer my way through some really bad movies when they fall into this genre. Not everything in this genre is bad and once such excellent piece of work has to be the now canceled CBS show Jericho.

The series ran for one full season and then a second seven episode season was produced due to fan outcry. Without the support of some very dedicated fans that short second season would have never been made. Considering the way season one ends it would have been a crime not to have created a second season!

The plot of Jericho is simple to explain: A group of terrorists have set off a nuclear bomb in the nearby city of Denver. The residents of Jericho Kansas find this out when they see a mushroom cloud on the horizon. What they don't know (and we later find out) is that it was more than one bomb that went off.

The terrorist plot is gradually exposed to the viewer over the course of the series and by the time the second season ends we find out exactly what is going on. There is still room for the series to go on but for those who like their canceled shows to end without loose strings this show does just that. Even though I would have liked more episodes to air after the season two ending I feel satisfied by what was aired.

Along with the bomb plot we also get a look into how people and society change once the US government ceases to exist. Roving gangs take to the roads to waylay the weak. Those who have prey on those who have not. Some people will not even put aside politics for the common good.

All is not lost, some folks remain good even through the rough times. Take the Green family for example. Johnston Green has been mayor of the small town of Jericho for 25 years. His father was mayor before him yet his opponent Gray Anderson continues to try to score political points as the world falls apart around Jericho. In the end Gray takes advantage of this and defeats Johnston in a town election. It doesn't take long for Gray to realize that he is in no way prepared to be mayor in these trying times. When he finally realizes this and reaches out to Green for help the political grudges are forgotten and the two come together to help the town.

Most of the events of the show take place in Jericho proper or the outlying farms. When we hear about events outside of Jericho they tend to be told second hand rather than viewed directly. This leads us to wonder whether things are bad all over or just locally.

If you are looking for a Mad Max type show you are not going to find it here. Jericho is a more realistic look at the days and months after a nuclear attack rather than years later. The characters still believe that everything will be made right and that the government will return.

I don't want to say anything more about the show as that would risk spoiling things for those who have not yet seen it. All I can say is that Jericho is worth a rental or an online viewing.

Watch Jericho online
Get Jericho via NetFlix

Books December 1st, 2008 by HMTKSteve

A little over a week ago I was in search of a book to read. While perusing the books in my daughter's collection (she has a habit of buying books above her reading level) I chanced upon a rather thick one titled Eragon.

Now, I had heard a little bit about the book (and the movie) and not all of it was good. I had heard that the book was a mediocre knock-off of Star Wars. With somewhat low expectations I borrowed the book and began to read it.

In the beginning I noticed many similarities between the two stories. Brom played the part of Obi Wan while Eragon was the moisture farmer from a backwoods area of the Empire. Agents of the rebellion sent a very important item into Eragon's possession and soon after Eragon's uncle was killed by members of the Empire who went searching for it.

Though Brom never mentioned fighting alongside Eragon's father in the Clone Dragon Wars he did provide Eragon with a light saber magical sword that could cut through anything. Even though there were many other parallels to Star Wars I found that the book soon found its own path and began to get better. In fact once you get about half way through the book you can clearly see that the author has matured somewhat in his writing. In fact the second two books almost feel as if they were written by a different author due to the vast improvement in writing skill.

I ended up finishing Eragon in about three days and went out and purchased Eldest in hard cover. If I had known it was out in softcover I would have purchased that version but such is life.

I completed reading Eldest in about four days. I considered myself lucky because the third book in the trilogy had just been published. Nothing annoys me more than getting into a good book and having to wait years for the next installment (I'm talking to you J.K. Rawlings!) You can imagine my surprise after reaching the end of Brisingr.

What was published as a trilogy has now become a cycle. That's right, I now have to wait (who knows how many) years before the story will (hopefully) draw to its conclusion in the fourth book of the trilogy.

I did not complain when the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy grew beyond a trilogy but that was different situation. In the case of Hitchhiker's the story had already come to a satisfying conclusion and Douglas Adams added some desert. Such is not the case with the Inheritance trilogy cycle.

I began reading the Inheritance trilogy safe in the knowledge that, if I liked it, I would be able to read all three books and not have to wait for years for the story to conclude. Instead I must now wait an unspecified amount of time for this story to conclude.

As much as I have enjoyed reading the last two books in the series (you have no idea how happy I was to see the writing improve) I would have preferred if the series was never referred to as a trilogy. All stories need a clear beginning, middle and end as well as an outline. As a writer of middling skill myself I understand that sometimes the story can get away from the author as characters begin to take on a life of their own. Carefully laid out plots can quickly go awry when the author realizes that characters have acquired more dimensions. I have found very little real fluff in the series that should be cut in the interests of making the story fit into three books.

I just had to vent. I was hoping to reach a satisfying conclusion when I finished reading the third book today. When I opened Brisingr I did not jump to the back of the book to see how it ends so I was very much surprised to reach the end only to be told that the story would conclude in the fourth book. I can't say I was completely waylaid by the author because as I reached the halfway point of the story and certain plot elements had not been addressed I acquired a sinking feeling that either the ending would leave me empty or there would be another book.

I also have to place a little bit of blame on the young woman at the bookstore. I asked her if she had read it and she told me that she had. I asked her if everything was wrapped up and if the story had left room for a fourth book. She was rather coy in her answer but she never mentioned that there would definitely be a fourth book.

There. That is all I have to say.

PS: I don't know if you meant it as an homage but I kept pronouncing Eragon as "Aragorn". Visions of Lord of the Rings often went through my head while reading the story.

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