Imx Fix in my experience
October 2003 Archives

October 30, 2003 9:17 AM

Metcalf's Law states that...
The usefulness, or utility, of a network equals the square of the number of users.
Online videogames are the ultimate proof of that law, which leads to purchasing decisons when considering which version of a game you will buy. For example, XIII is due to be released in the coming weeks, and will have an online component to it. Experience tells me that the Xbox, PC and Gamecube versions will not be online compatible (for any one of several reasons, such as code differences and unfair advantages for keyboard and mouse based players, Xbox/MSFT meddling). If my assumption is wrong, this application of that law is moot, but it's fun to prattle on about it, so...

XboxMicrosoft's Xbox seems to have pulled ahead of Nintendo's Gamecube in terms of total units sold. Moreover, the Xbox is meant to be an online gaming machine (ethernet on-board) and the Gamecube is not (broadband adapter sold separately). Don't take my word for it, just listen to what Nintendo said when it announced an online gaming deal with AOL...

The company reaffirmed that as of yet it is not developing any online games for GameCube. It stated: "To be clear, this does not indicate the unveiling of a new online gaming approach from Nintendo. Nor does it signify that we have changed our position on the current business viability in the online console gaming field."
Being a long time network gamer, I find that to be a truly unbelievable statement (why announce something like that without the huevos/games/business-model to back it up). More empiracle evidence hardens my position where the online component of Crimson Skies (which I bought mere hours after posting a question about which game to buy) shows you how many Crimson Skies purchasers have played it online. As of today, it was over 20,000 and seems to grow by 1,000 a day.

Nintendo Gamecube ControllerNintendo wasn't completly honest when they said that the deal with AOL did not represent an "unveiling of a new online gaming approach from Nintendo", because there are changes afoot. Kirby Air Ride, 1080 Snowboarding and Mario Kart: Double Dash all support LAN based multiplayer gaming. Better yet, some folks are working on moving that over to the Internet much the same way Halo internet play was enabled a year ago. This fact will probably make me buy the Nintendo Broadband Adapter and get it hooked up to my home network, but how many other people out there will buy the broadband adapter and Mario Kart and set-up Warp Pipe and be online when I am. One guy I work with will satisfy all of those conditons.

I have already made my XIII purchasing decision though. The value and power of the Xbox Live system will make XIII online play more viable/possible/enjoyable. I can't hazzard a guess as to how many more/less people will go for the PC version, and if that pool of players will be more valuable a gaming resource á la Metcalf's Law, but you can be damn sure that more Xbox owners will pick up XIII than Gamecube owners making that pool of players exponentially more valueable when it comes time to find a game of CTF.

October 29, 2003 9:28 AM

Firing him will generate more bad press than his blog posting would have. I would never of heard of this unless the news of his release from MSFT was put on the various Mac news sites. Everyone is going to see this story today, but I'm going to post about it here anyway.

Now really, it seems to me that MSFT must need to buy some Macs so they can be sure their Mac software actually runs, right? What's the harm in showing a pallette of G5's (some of them knocked over) on a truck? If they poster didn't say it was at Microsoft building, you would be able to tell.

Where I work, we have a Standards of Business Conduct thing that you agree to work there, which I read carefully, and it suggests that giving away corporate secrets will get you into trouble. That's why I didn't post pics of AOL's blogging system while it was in beta, and why I don't make all of the corporate logos available for download in vector format. Those would be obvious violations of trust between me and the company that feeds my family.

IMHO, a picture of a pallette of G5's being delivered to a company that writes Mac software is not grounds for removal. But who knows, this guy could be a major asshole who was on a 'work performance plan' and the company was looking for an excuse. Who knows. I don't, but the whole thing is pretty crazy.

October 24, 2003 12:17 PM

XboxPC gaming certainly was a lot of fun back in the day ("back in the day" = three years ago) because there was plenty of great modem based online gaming available. I was a major Myth addict 'way back in the day' and later moved onto Unreal Tournament and then to Tribes and Tribes 2. During this time, I made the required video card and processor upgrades, but continually fell behind the curve and was/am unwilling to buy a new PC for the sole use of gaming (I do my work on a Mac).

Life without 2+ ghz processors and Radeon 9600's means that you move back to consoles as your video game delivery mechanism. In my case, that was a Gamecube and an Xbox purchase meant to satisfy two needs; Mario and Zelda action, and PC gaming without the Windows.

I've got the broadband running at home now and have been playing MechAssault and Unreal Championship recently. For some reason they don't have the longevity that I was hoping for (but I certainly have gotten my money's worth on each because I got each of them cheaply and have put in 100+ hours on each (but I still suck)). I need a new online game and the choices are these...

Choice #1 ->   Midtown Madness 3
I'm very interested in seeing how online racing games work and if they can be any fun. I'm also curious to see if the type of person playing them is any different than the jerky 16 year olds I tend to find in the first person shooters.

I assume racing games are more episodic than deathmatch sessions where you can just drop in and start fraggin' the aforementioned zit factories. Does this appeal to my 32 year old gameplaying sensibilities, or will i always be waiting for a race to start? I have RalliSport Challenge, and I can go from turned off Xbox to rally action in about 20 seconds.

Choice #2 ->   Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
I have seen several good reviews for this game in terms of graphics, style and online play. This game would be less of a departure from FPS play than Midtown Madness but would still be within that genre making my extensive experience at sucking at FPS's slightly useful. And besides, I don't have any flight based games for my Cube or Xbox and this would probably be the best choice to change that.
Choice #3 ->   XIII
I'm pretty positive that I'm going to buy this one when it comes out in two weeks. In particular, I'm interested in this part of what the game has to offer...
Sabotage stood out at the one most likely to get the most play when XIII launches in a few weeks. One team plays offense and the other is defending. The team on offense has to detonate bombs in three specific areas that the defense will be trying to protect. Bombs spawn at the offensive team's base and can only be used one at a time and hand delivered by one of the players to one of the target areas. The bomb carrier isn't handicapped while carrying the bomb and so he can still shoot and use all of the weapons at his disposal, but once he gets to the target area --indicated by a big red numeral 1,2 or 3-- that's when trouble begins. The carrier has to trigger the bomb by selecting it from his arsenal and then continuously press the primary attack button to arm it. It takes 12 seconds for the bomb to be armed, during which the carrier is totally vulnerable since he can't fire any of his other weapons. If at any point, he removes his finger from the fire button before the bomb is armed or if he moves too far away from the target area, he'll have to fire again within the target area to restart the countdown. Repeating this process for the other two locations can make for some dramatic encounters with the defense.
That all sounds like the type of network gaming I want to play. Tribes had a seige based online gametype, and it was lots of fun if you had enough people to play it. Unfortunately, it wasn't the most popular gametype next to CTF and the ever present Deathmatch.
This entire discussion goes on in parallel with the gut wrenching decisions to make on Gamecube purchases. Viewtiful Joe is a must have and I was thinking about Rebel Strike too, and I'm not done with F-Zero yet...and...and....

Too much to play, too little time to play it.

October 23, 2003 3:25 AM

My summer vacation this year was a week at the beach with friends and family in North Carolina. It seems as though everyone in Northern Virginia goes to the Outer Banks of NC for their vacation, and it's really no wonder why.

Corolla Dunes

October 21, 2003 9:12 AM

iTunes IconDave Fester, General Manager of the Windows Digital Media Division has a few things to say about the iPod and iTunes on the PC (and what a coincidence, the article was posted the day before Apple announced iTunes for PC). Even though he looks sprightly and offers you a high rez portrait of himself (oh joy!), he is less than enthusiastic about one more digital media application being written for his platform. Here's a quick look at the FUD...
iTunes will still remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services.
Nice FUD buddy. The last time I checked (which is every day for the last several months) I was able to put music on my iPod from non-iTunes based music services (eg, eMusic, Don't take my word for it though, just look at Apple's tech specs page for the device...
Audio formats supported:
  • Mac: AAC (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, AIFF, Audible
  • Windows: MP3 (up to 320 Kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR), WAV, Audible
WMA is of course missing. <sarcasm>WMA, that really open file format that lets you do whatever you want with the music you bought.</sarcasm> What he really meant was that iTunes and the iPod do not work with, Napster or the other WMA specific music services currently being offered in the marketplace. IMHO, that's a good thing.
Additionally, users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store.
Now, that's true, but only if you limit the scope of that statement to "in terms of buying music and putting it on your iPod without leaving one application" then it is indeed true that users of "iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store." But, again, the last time I checked, music that I bought at, and downloaded off of can be placed on my iPod using iTunes.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a drawback for Windows users, who expect choice in music services, choice in devices, and choice in music from a wide-variety of music services to burn to a CD or put on a portable device.
The last time I checked the flexibility offered by paid music download services that use WMA for the format, none of them match the iTunes service (10 burns per playlist, files can be on multiple machines, etc). Some only let you stream the music. And others only allow one CD to be burned. If you take a look at which uses WMA you'll notice that "BuyMusic's terms of sale also shut out several major digital music players from receiving downloads." More precisely...
The company specifies that devices are allowed to store digital music files and play them back in analog form but must not be able to transfer them on to other electronic devices. For example, consumers with an Archos device, an iPod competitor, would not be able download music, because that system allows them to transfer music to other devices. -C|net
Why isn't Mr. Fester complaining about's obvious lack of 'wide-variety' of support for portable devices? Oh yeah, they are WMA based. Ok, more on iTunes and music devices...
Lastly, if you use Apple's music store along with iTunes, you don't have the ability of using the over 40 different Windows Media-compatible portable music devices.
Is he trying to say that the iTunes application breaks all other music players? I'm guessing he meant to say something like 'syncing to a Rio doesn't work in iTunes' but the actual statement is kind of odd and FUD-like. I'll assume he's not being smarmy and meant the more benign interpretation, and I'll simply say, 'so what?' I own an iPod for a few good reasons, and one of them is the integration with iTunes and my Mac. 750,000 PC users have bought iPods for their own reasons. iTunes integration can now be added to that list.

The bottom line is that Apple brought iTunes to the PC to sell more iPods. God forbid they make iTunes work with the iPod and any MP3, ACC, VBR MP3, WAV or Audible file that you might have, regardless of where you got it (and if you are like me, you don't care that WMA and other DRM based music file formats aren't supported).

[I've been on a real tear with the Apple/Mac postings recently, and MacSurfer has been linking to those posts. Thanks for the links and thanks for visiting.]

October 16, 2003 8:58 AM

Mozilla vs. SafariBeing a web developer, I download all of the browsers I can get and use them and come to various opinions about their utility, speed, compatibility and that intangible 'like it or hate it' quality. For the last month or two, Safari and Mozilla have been taking turns as my 'love it' browser, and I now keep them both running at all times.

Safari is my most often used browser for a few simple reasons...

  • It's pretty fast.
  • It has tabbed brosing.
  • I want to support the mothership.
  • The bookmarks handling is great.
  • The Google search is small and always there for me.
But there is one huge disadvantage in Safari that I'm not sure affects many other people. The JavaScript engine is very slow. Simple JavaScript is nicely handled and the engine is pretty good in terms of standards compatibilitiy, but when the going gets tough and there's lots of heavy JavaScript to deal with, Safari bogs down. I have one page in particular that I use daily that is a great example. but that's on an intranet site and you can get there from the Internet. Mozilla handles that same page perfectly, and extremely quickly.

Mozilla's advanages are...

  • Fast parsing/rendering.
  • Fast JavaScript handling.
  • Standards compliancy.
  • JavaScript Debugger, JavaScript Console and the Dom Inspector
Unfortunately, it's not an Apple browser (which is not a good reason to say it's disadvantaged, but for some reason I put it in there), has an unnessesarily chunky UI (why are the tabs so huge?) and has an email client embedded (I would migrate to Firebird but there's no DOM Inspector or JavaScript debugger, and it's still pretty buggy).

I think Safari is better for casual browsing and Mozilla is better for working. (Dis)Agree?

October 15, 2003 3:43 AM

There is no doubt at all that the Microsoft patent on custom web pages is being discussed all over the web today. I also have no doubt that there are precious few people out there who even know about this sort of issue and that it is an issue. At stake is a patent awarded to the most aggressively carnivorous business is the world, and a VERY common procedure for delivering web content.

If you read the patent, and I did, and you are a web developer, like me, you'll probably see a lot of procedures described that seem familiar. If you didn't read the patent info yet, take a look at the abstract...

User-selected customization information for a network (e.g., HTML) document is stored at a server with reference to user identifying information that uniquely identifies the user. Whenever the user navigates back to the network address of the HTML document, the user is identified automatically and receives a customized HTML document formed in accordance with the customization information.
This basically says that Microsoft owns a patent on any functionality on a web site where a user fills in a form and then gets back a page that has information customized based on the parameters of what was submitted over the network. Have you ever written a CGI? If so, you probably set up a scenario described by this patent.

There's an ironic/annoying twist to this. The patent explicitly mentions HTML as the display encoding language, and I can't find mention of other encoding types mentioned in the patent. So, one might think that a Flash based, network enabled application is the way to avoid a patent violation, right? Sure, but if that's supposed to appear in a web browser, you have to deal with the Eolas patent. If you think you can use XSLT and CSS instead, step back a second and check out the CSS patent disclosure page at the W3C.

October 11, 2003 8:59 AM

With so many portable digital music players out there, why did I pick the iPod? Let me count the ways...

  1. It's pretty small.
  2. It's a firewire hard drive.
  3. You can install OSX on it and boot from it, so I can bring your environment with you anywhere.
  4. I'm a Mac zealot, I admit it.
  5. It's a light weight PDA, and all I really need is a lightweight PDA instead of a PocketPC (shudder) or even a Zire.
    • I can export from my corporate calendar system over to iCal and pump that on the iPod
    • I use Apple's Mail application, and add people to the Address Book a lot, and having all of those contacts in my pocket helps when I'm on call.
  6. I have a Mac at work and Mac at home, and only one bookmarks file.
  7. Oh yeah, I listen to music, a lot. (Several hours a day).
  8. My car has an auxillary input in it, and I can plug my iPod into it.
  9. The user interface and HCI elements of the iPod work well for me, and this post at Daring Fireball made me realize that...
    • You can scroll through long lists with an iPod using one continuous circular motion with your thumb; with a DJ-like scroll wheel (on the recently announced Dell Digital Jukebox), you're forced to scroll in short strokes, picking up your thumb each time, repeatedly, which wastes half your effort.
  10. I had $250 in gift certificates to the Apple store, so a mere $50 out of my pocket put 10 gigs into my pocket.

October 9, 2003 9:22 AM

The rumor around my office is that we're going to buy a site license (for our department anyway) of Mac OS X 10.3 (aka, Panther) due to the large amount of system administrators doing their SA work on OSX machines. In case that rumor doesn't pan out, and we don't get a site license, I plan on buying Panther myself.

The important thing is this, Panther is going to be expensive ($130), but everyone around here wants it (except for the Linux guys) and no one wants to pirate it. That's pretty good news for Apple I think, and I can't wait for the 24th to roll around. I'm most lookng forward to Exposé.

[I've been pretty busy recently with real life stuff. I hope to return to regular blogging volume soon.]

October 3, 2003 10:02 AM

I've discovered an inconsistancy and/or a bug in Mozilla's DOM implementation. Consider this simple unassuming HTML table which has it's id set to "ourTable"...

_Row_1_Cell_1_ _Row_1_Cell_2_ _Row_1_Cell_3_
_Row_2_Cell_1_ _Row_2_Cell_2_ _Row_2_Cell_3_
_Row_3_Cell_1_ _Row_3_Cell_2_ _Row_3_Cell_3_

The source of that table isn't anything weird and certainly isn't malformed HTML. Here's what the source of that table looks like...

<table border="1" width="50%" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="5" id="ourTable">
	<tr id="_Row_1_">
		<td id="_Row_1_Cell_1_">_Row_1_Cell_1_</td>
		<td id="_Row_1_Cell_2_">_Row_1_Cell_2_</td>
		<td id="_Row_1_Cell_3_">_Row_1_Cell_3_</td>
	<tr id="_Row_2_">
		<td id="_Row_2_Cell_1_">_Row_2_Cell_1_</td>
		<td id="_Row_2_Cell_2_">_Row_2_Cell_2_</td>
		<td id="_Row_2_Cell_3_">_Row_2_Cell_3_</td>
	<tr id="_Row_3_">
		<td id="_Row_3_Cell_1_">_Row_3_Cell_1_</td>
		<td id="_Row_3_Cell_2_">_Row_3_Cell_2_</td>
		<td id="_Row_3_Cell_3_">_Row_3_Cell_3_</td>

Now, using some JavaScript, let's start alerting things so we can see where Mozilla goes wrong (well, it does something different than Safari and Internet Explorer and I think it's incorrect). what we are going to do is alert the firstChild of the first row of the table. We do that in JavaScript by saying...
function whatIsThis(item) {

var myTable = document.getElementById("ourTable");


And then we call that function and pass in the name of the table we want to interrogate. In Mozilla you will get an alert box that says "[Object TEXT]" where as in Safari and Internet Explorer (I tested on my Win2k box for IE) you get "[Object TD]" and "[Object]" respectively.

If you go back up to the source of the table, and look at the firstChild of the first row, you very clearly see that there's a table cell there, and not the text contents of a random container. And for the record, accessing the table row thru getElementById and asking for it's firstChild returns the same result everywhere.

"Why is this important?" you ask. Well, if you want to use the DOM tools available to you for tracing around the DOM without knowing the ID's of everything, you can't do that with firstChilsd in Mozilla. That's bad. In my case, in a web application I'm working on, I have some HTML being written by a component in a very standardized way, and using ID's in everything is for more cumbersome than just grabbing the stuff that's in the firstChild of the firstChild of a table row. When we get "[Object TEXT]" back from Mozilla, there are no more firstChild[ren] available to us.

"So?" you ask, "why not use the cells[] array to trace into those table cells?" Well, the cell[] array is broken in Safari, and I'm trying to NOT write hopelessly forked (fucked?) JavaScript code for the sake of maintainability and editability by those who are more JavaScript challeneged than I am.

IMHO, Mozilla is obviously broken here.

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