Archive for June, 2011

Age of Empires Online is fun

June 30, 2011 1 comment

Today is the last day of the Age of Empires Online Beta. My review for Age of Empires Online is that it is fun. That said, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about the free vs. premium accounts once Age of Empires Online ships in August.

What’s different with AoEO compared to earlier AoE is that you go on quests. You start with a capitol city which is a unique and new concept. You don’t use the capital city like a normal AoE town center. What happens is in your city you can build up resources to by advancements. There are quest givers in your city who give you quests. At first, most of the quests are little things to do which help you learn how to play AoEO. Most of the quests are like traditional AoE games, but most of the time they don’t take as a long. What happens is the advancements you built up in your capitol city are then applied to the quests.

Having only previously played the first Age of Empires I don’t know what the multiplayer experience was like. In Age of Empires Online you can create parties with people through XBox Live (I don’t own an XBox, but now I’m part of XBox Live). Amanda was in the Beta as well, so we’d make a party and then either help each other out with quests, or face off against each other in player vs. player quests. We always had a lot of fun doing both.

Given that there will be a free version of AoEO I think that it will be worth everyone’s time to download it and play it. It will be fun.

Blog technology should default to creating an online conversation

June 29, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s not hard at all to view a blog (like this one) or a news website where online readers can post comments. The way they are nearly all setup though is that the comment is in response to the blog post/news article. The problem with that is that many of them aren’t. If an article as more than 10 comments you’re very likely to start seeing comments which start with @someOtherAlias, where a commenter was responding to a previous comment. Once in a while a conversation will happen between the two. For this to happen though it requires each individual to spend the day with a monkey on their back constantly checking the blog to see if the other has responded.

Given how common this is I think that all of the blog technology platforms out there should always have the ability to reply to specific comments. Three examples I can think of are and newsvine. For articles that are probably going to generate a hundred or less comments, cnet does it right. Show every comment and response, allow the community to flag inappropriate comments/spam, and show like buttons. For stories that will most likely have more than a hundred comments, slashdot does it right. A community of moderators add tags and points to comments, and by default only highly rated comments/responses are shown.

The other way where slashdot shines is when you go to their home page there’s a box in the right hand corner showing you responses to your comments. Personally, in addition to the differnet blogs having a box like this, they should have a Web Slice. I know that Web Slices haven’t taken off like the IE team was hoping that they would, but they work really well in this situation. Something that I would like is an email to every response which could happen to any comment I add to a website. That would be a flood of useless emails. But with a Web Slice, it’ll turn bold when there’s a change and I can check it at my leasure. Also, having a web slice like box on the home page of the blog I can see responses whenever I’m interested in visiting the blog, if I don’t think that the blog is worth taking up space on my browsers favorites bar.

I hope that having online conversations start becoming the norm. The current system of “the last guy who checked the article gets the last laugh” is not ideal.


Best review for a Windows Phone

June 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Yesterday I was on the bus talking to a friend of mine. This particular friend seems to switch the cell phone he uses about every six months. He currently has a Windows Phone 7, and if I remember right the previous two were Androids, the one before that was an iPhone and the one before that was a Windows Mobile 6.5. I asked him how he’s liking WP7 and he said that he likes it. There were some little things that he used infrequently from his Androids that he sometimes misses on his WP7, but thing he didn’t miss was the Android battery life. The battery life on his WP7 was so much better than on any of his previous smart phones he can’t go back. He can ignore those little features for a device that lasts as long as a WP7 does. His WP7 gets the job done, and can keep on getting it done for longer.

To me, that is the best review a WP7 can get. Of course a device that does nothing will have wonderful battery life, so I’m  assuming once a certain bar of usability/usefullness is achieved, that battery life is king. Microsoft is coming out with the Mango update to add features to WP7, and they had better make sure that a noticable amount of battery life isn’t sacrificed for those features. Because if it is, there will be customers who migrate to devices with more features per battery life (that’s an interesting metric; is there a name for that unit?), if the battery life isn’t noticably different between the devices.

Browser memory usage

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Today the internet has been full of comments of bloggers (and those who comment on blogs) commenting on FireFox’s announcement that FireFox 4 is no longer supported (even though it’s only been out for 3 months) and that FireFox doesn’t care about coporate users. A running theme I’ve seen in many of the responces is that lots of people don’t want FireFox to make major updates, all they want is for FireFox to consume less memory. That got me thinking back to when IE 7 was released. When it was, all that was talked about was memory consumption between IE, FireFox and Safari. Something I found ironic today is that I’ve never seen anyone complain about IE 9 memory usage. Is is possible that IE 9 has reasonable memory usage, and since it’s reasonable no one brags about it but no one complains about it either?

I’ll have IE 9 open for weeks at a time, and it never seems like it’s taking over the RAM on any of my computers. While I don’t think that the IE team should start screaming from the roof tops that their memory usage is better (primarily because it’s primarily driven by websites) I do find it to be nice to be using a browser that’s not being branded as a memory hog.

Picking a Jury Never Comes up in Shows

June 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Last week I had Jury duty with the Kirkland City municipal court. It was a good experience. The vast majority of cases which they serve are single day cases. One thing I noticed rather quickly was that there more like half day cases because the first half of the is spent picking the jury.
What happens is that the two sides are looking for fair and impartial jurrors (unless they’re shady and hope to get someone biased towards their side) so there is a set of questions the judge asks, and the attorneys then get some time to ask questions. These questions can actually be rather interesting and are a foreshadow as to how they are going to bold their case. These questions can be objected to, argued over, and rejected. The attorneys and judge can deny a juror without cause or with cause.
Everyone could tell that one defendant had a hopeless case when he tried to dismiss all 40 potential jurors because since we all had drivers licenses, we would be unjustly biased against him.
Given how many crime\trial shows seem repetitive (not that I watch a lot) I would think that the shows would use this time to mix things up.

Getting rid of tax breaks is not raising taxes

June 18, 2011 Leave a comment

This past week the US Senate voted 73-27 to get rid of certain tax breaks for corn growers. I am all for this. One of the arguments that the 27 naysayers had was that they were not going to raise taxes. I don’t consider expiring tax breaks as raising taxes. It’s putting taxes back where they should have been without the government manipulating the market. Yes, technically, somebody might end up paying more in taxes. But getting rid of a tax break is worth it. By having less tax breaks the tax code is simpler. Plus tax breaks generally are taken advantage only of those who know about them. And who are the people which are going to know about them? Large corporations who can higher lawyers and accountants to dig through the laws to find these sort of things out. Those are the types who know about all of these different special cases in the tax code.

While I’m not a “tax and spend” type of a guy I also hate debt nearly as much as Andrew Jackson. The US needs to pay off its debt. I also feel that the US government does too much, and tries to fix too many peoples problems and the risk of those people not learning consequences of their actions. But I don’t foresee a reasonable way to pay off the debt by lowering taxes and reducing services, like what some of the Tea Partiers are trying to do.

I also don’t like complicated tax codes. So by getting rid of the tax breaks, the tax code becomes simpler. Also, I don’t think that it’s going to put any of the large farm corporations about of business, so the politicians don’t need to worry about that. If a farm doesn’t feel like they’d make money on corn they’ll grow a crop that they do feel that they’d make money on. They were around before the tax break, they’ll be around after the tax break.

I will never consider getting rid of a tax break, or letting subsidy expire as raising taxes. It’s putting the relationship between the government, the citizen and the market closer to what it should have been in the first place.

Categories: News and politics

Facial Recognition Fiasco

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Facebook recently added facial recognition to their service offering. Many in the media are making a hoopla about it and the privacy concerns it brings up. Facebook had to add it because Windows Live already had it and even though it doesn’t have the mindshare, they have to keep up with Windows Live. The privacy “experts” haven’t made a fuss over Windows Live because that doesn’t generate as much attention.
Right now both Windows Live and Facebook don’t share recognition data across accounts, and that’s were the real privacy concern begins. At what point in the future will the average person be able to take a picture and have the internet be able to identify a stranger?

Exchange Online needs to worry about PC World

June 9, 2011 Leave a comment

One thing I find funny about the PC World magazine is that they feel that Microsoft can do no right. And yet, Microsoft has been a major contributor to the growth of the Personal Computer. Would PC World magazine even exist without Microsoft? For the PC World editors it’s hard for Google to do any wrong, and Apple surely will never do anything which is not perfect. Microsoft, on the other hand, can only do wrong. Now it does make sense that if the magazine wouldn’t ever say anything bad about any Microsoft products that it’d garner no interest, but the vile hatred they have for Microsoft is entertaining. Ever since Vista shipped, they do seem to like XP though, and can only give dire warnings of any new OS that Microsoft may put out. I think the reason why is because they were able to generate interest for themselves by show casing tools which would help consumers manage a Win9x/XP PC. But ever since Vista a lot of those problems have gone away and you don’t really need much beyond what comes with the OS.

One group which needs to keep an eye on PC World is the Microsoft Exchange team. Exchange has been hosting (that’s right the Exchange product team itself, not some dedicated hosting team) mailboxes for customers since shortly after Exchange 2007 shipped. The idea is that they want to get Exchange to have the same OPEX as Hotmail or any other consumer emailing systems. This then makes the Exchange product the premier enterprise emailing solution, which will also have the lowest overhead possible for a 5 9’s system.

But since Exchange Online comes from Microsoft, any hiccup which occurs in the system will get attacked by PC World. Part of the reason is that there won’t by anyone on the PC World staff who’d have their mailboxes on Exchange Online (which is about to be rebranded as part of the Office 365 service), so they can’t see how good it can be. They only hear when some of the customers are having legitimate issues. Part of what makes it possible to hear what the issues are, is that the Exchange team really wants to be connected to their customers and have made forums were customers can report complaints. Having forums for issues, is not a bad thing, but a few years ago that wasn’t realistic, so the press need to learn how to appropriatly use this new source of information. Previously if a service was having a problem, only the service would hear about it, and a lot of times given the deep tiers of support, not even then.

So I certainly do hope that Exchange can continue to offer the great level of support that they do, and I hope that PC World won’t magnify problems with the service more so than they would with Exchange’s competitors. But given that the competitors consist of GMail, that’s not likely going to happen.