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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MACs vs. PCs

posted by on October 21 at 9:18 AM

This vs. That is the theme of the day.

So... the whole MAC vs. PC thing? Totally played out? With Apple now making fun of Microsoft's ads which make fun of Apple's ad that make fun of Microsoft, yeah, pretty much played. And now New York's musical-theater/stage-combat/blood-and-gore-special-effects geeks deliver a final, fatal blow.

It goes on about, oh, three minutes longer than it needed to. And at the end? Are they MAC and PC zombies or what?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Overheard in the Office

posted by on October 9 at 4:35 PM

"Did you know that Jonah and Dominic lose their Internet connection every time someone runs the microwave?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Worried Enough Yet?

posted by on September 16 at 12:43 PM

How about a nice dose of vote hacking paranoia?

Researchers at UCSB have demonstrated how ridiculously easy it is to compromise voting machines from Sequoia Voting Systems, which are currently used in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Boring yet terrifying video, in two parts:

Sequoia recently intimidated New Jersey into not giving one of their machines to respected Princeton researcher Ed Felten for testing. They naturally claim intellectual property rights and all kinds of other horseshit in their quest to destroy the foundation of our government, which is itself, of course, also entirely complicit in this mess.

For a bit of contrast, here's a page from Australia's Capital Territory Election Commision's site, which gives complete public access to their open-source voting software.

In one sentence, they explain why they're smart and we're dumb:

The software for the electronic voting and counting system was built using Linux open source software, which was chosen specifically for this electoral system to ensure that election software is open and transparent and could be made available to scrutineers, candidates and other participants in the electoral process.

I'm don't think there's a pill strong enough to make me feel better about this one.

Monday, August 18, 2008


posted by on August 18 at 6:40 PM

Attention iPhone-enabled Slog & Line Out readers!

Your slow-page-loading days are over. Some time ago, because I have an iPhone and very little patience, I created an iPhone-optimized interface for Slog. Some time later, Nick improved it and then the other day New Nick made one for Line Out. Now, in a fit of selflessness and doing-my-job, I'm sharing it with the world. I hope that it makes you as happy as it has me.

I'm very happy, ask anyone.

slog.jpg lineout.jpg

Don't have an iPhone? Well, this might work just fine in your mobile "browser," but I can't promise anything. Please let us know how it goes if you try it. I attempted to test it in Windows Mobile, but I don't associate with Windows Mobile users, and attempts to get Microsoft's emulators working proved predictably annoying, and then I got hungry. YMMV!

You're Doing it Wrong

posted by on August 18 at 5:10 PM

xkcd, as usual, is right on the money.

click for larger version

Someone needs to figure out how to make this a real issue while not sounding like a conspiracy theorist, BEFORE an election. The validity of the vote is really the only political issue that matters, no? How many software glitches have you experienced today? Me? Probably about 30. Be very afraid.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Netflix Is Back Up

posted by on August 15 at 5:00 PM

Hacking Netflix reports that Netflix is back up and running. (My queue is still messed up, though.) Apparently, every Netflix customer who was affected is getting a 15% credit for the four days without service.

Customers are still outraged:

...I'm watching Star Trek Voyager, and I'm at the end of season 2. Season 2 disk 6 was supposed be shipped today as of last night, but it's gone "poof" and they are shipping season 2 disk 7. I had to go back and add disk 6 back up at the top.

I'm just glad this didn't happen when I was watching DS9.

Amen to that. Videos should arrive on Saturday, which means: Tonight you should go to your local friendly neighborhood video store.


posted by on August 15 at 2:00 PM

It looks like T-Mobile is going to be the first carrier of the Gphone. They also might have a plan to reward preexisting T-Mobile customers:

". . . during the presale of the G1, T-mobile customers can pick up the phone for $150. This is where it gets interesting, we’re not seeing any prices for new activations during the presale, so this could mean that only current T-mobile customers can pick up the G1 during the presale. Other customers interested in the G1 may have to wait until beginning/mid October before a national public launch."

This is clearly not going to be another iPhone. The device looks downright clunky next to Apple's phone:

But it could be significantly cheaper. Will that be enough to make a difference? And should I get one?

Answers are not clear as this time. Try again later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Be the First to Ride the Crest of Polaroid Rage

posted by on August 12 at 4:00 PM

Engadget reports that Polaroid is about to release the world's first digital camera that prints photos on a built-in printer, along the same lines as the recently expired Polaroid film cameras. The camera should be out by Christmas.

Apparently, there's a poll you can take to help decide what the camera will look like here. There's probably no way to make it look like this:


Two thoughts:

1: I'm surprised that it took them this long to make this.


2: This will make absolutely none of these people happy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Feel Your Pain, Hitler

posted by on August 9 at 8:26 PM

I wish I had as many followers as Hitler.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Gr8 Am. Txt Stry Contest

posted by on August 1 at 5:09 PM

Text-messaging meets literature (or a literature-like substance) meets a year's supply of chocolate—this has Paul Constant written all over it.

Tap into your imagination, flex your literary muscle—and don't forget to stretch your thumbs. Simply submit your Great American Story, txt-style. Create your masterpiece of 1500 words (one text message at a time) and incorporate ALL 11 NEWTREE chocolate names: PLEASURE, VIGOR, RENEW, REFRESH, FORGIVENESS, SEXY, BLUSH, TRANQUILITY, COCOON, REJOICE and CRAVE.

Forgiveness in a wrapper! The end is nigh.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Today in Futuristic Vehicles

posted by on July 29 at 2:45 PM

A New York Times reporter gets a test-ride in what will likely be the first commercially available "jet pack." The quotes are because it's not a jet, and it's only a pack in the way that strapping a small motorcycle to your back would also be considered a pack.


So far it's flown to a maximum altitude of six feet, but the developer promises to personally take it up to 500 feet before he starts selling them for $100,000 next year. He's also reported to be trying to come to terms with the fact that, "at some point, somebody is going to have a very bad experience.”

Watch the video. You can see where he gets a little too close to a tree and the branches get sucked into the rotors.

I imagine that, like the Segway, these will be initially used by law enforcement, which will be awesome, right?

In other futuristic transportation news, the owner of the #6 Tesla Roadster crashed his $109,000 car shortly after taking delivery of the much anticipated all-carbon electric speedster. No one was injured.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Who Will Kill This Electric Car?

posted by on July 28 at 12:57 PM


Andrew Farah, who worked on the GM EV1 electric car—which GM mysteriously smashed to smithereens, inspiring this conspiracy-theorizing documentary—is now chief engineer for the Chevrolet Volt.

There's a good, long article about him and the project over on the Atlantic Monthly:

Farah had been fiercely committed to the EV1, and he was not about to relive the disappointment.

“Hell, no,” he said. “I’ve been on programs like this before. They’re not real.”

“No,” came the reply. “This one is real.” Farah asked to talk to other senior executives, and they concurred. So, in the spring of last year, he took one of the hardest jobs at GM, and became the Volt’s chief engineer.

And how, I ask over coffee early one February morning in Detroit, is it going? It is 6 a.m., and Farah, who is 47 and has angular features and prominent black glasses, is rushing to make a 7 a.m. meeting. The car, he says, is 10 weeks behind the original schedule. Any more slippage, and the 2010 deadline will be history. Even if no more time is lost, he will have only eight weeks to test the underbody, the car’s structural base.

Is that enough time? He answers indirectly. In some cars, he says, testing the underbody can take a year.

GM, he tells me, is taking an industrial organization designed to grind out incremental improvements and repurposing it for a technological leap. “I spend 20 percent of my time being a psychologist and counselor,” he says. “I tell people, ‘Yes, there’s a lot of risk. And, yes, that’s OK.’

“It’s not a program for the faint of heart.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Don't Fight the Future

posted by on July 21 at 3:27 PM

There's been a lot of future talk on Slog today, and so I thought that we needed a flying car post. Turns out, there's no flying car on the horizon, but there is a car that runs on air:

India’s largest automaker Tata Motors is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.

The Air Car, called the MiniCAT could cost around Rs. 3,50,000 ($ 8177) in India and would have a range of around 300 km between refuels.

The cost of a refill would be about Rs. 85 ($ 2). Tata motors also plans to launch the world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano priced famously at One lakh rupees by October.

It's no flying car, but it does make a MINI Cooper look like a gas-guzzling SUV, and that's futuristic enough for me.


All Up in Your Brain

posted by on July 21 at 2:00 PM

From Weird Universe:

Hitachi recently announced that in 2010 they plan to unveil a 5TB hard drive. This led them to note that, "By 2010, just two disks will suffice to provide the same storage capacity as the human brain."

Of course, nobody knows exactly how much memory the human brain actually holds—the method Hitachi uses has something to do with counting synapses, which is maybe too linear—but somebody on Digg points out that Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation had a 5 terabyte capacity memory in his brain, which can only mean one thing: line up for your androids now, kids. And prepare to run in fear when they turn on you.

The Future in History

posted by on July 21 at 10:24 AM

-5.jpg An idea: The death of Sharper Image marks the completion of the future's movement from specialization to generalization. The future can no longer be isolated; it is everywhere, it is the now of it all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“A Small Inconvenience to Ensure Their Safe Arrival”

posted by on July 16 at 4:54 PM

Nothing would make me feel more secure when I fly than wearing a remotely-activated taser bracelet from check-in to landing. And, lookee here, that’s exactly what an official at the Department of Homeland Security is considering. According to the Washington Times, the Electro-Muscular Disruption bracelet worn by airline passengers would:

• Take the place of an airline boarding pass

• Contain personal information about the traveler

• Be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage

Shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes;The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.” Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if the passenger got out of line….

According to [a] letter from DHS official, Paul S. Ruwaldt of the Science and Technology Directorate, office of Research and Development, which was written to the inventor whom he had previously met with, Ruwaldt wrote, “To make it clear, we [the federal government] are interested in . . . the immobilizing security bracelet, and look forward to receiving a written proposal.”

Shocking, yes, but as the promotional video by Lamperd Less Lethal, Inc. explains, it’s “a small inconvenience to ensure their safe arrival.”

Enjoy the flight!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Attention iPhone Owners

posted by on July 11 at 8:23 AM

Don't update your software just yet -- unless you want to brick make your phone useless like, uh, I just did.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

As Long as They Don't Call it "iTomes"

posted by on July 10 at 1:00 PM

David Rothman, who is always very excited about e-books, brings news that the iTunes store might be incorporating e-books into the music and movies. This comes on the heels of multiple news stories reporting that the new 3G iPhone will have an e-reader function. Rothman says that this is "one more reason why publishers would be foolish to be Kindle-centric," which is absolutely true. Of course, they shouldn't be iTunes -centric, either.

If all this actually happens, it's one step closer to what I think will be the real future of the e-book. It's not going to replace anything, it's just another distribution system for publishers, and could very well result in more people reading more books.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

YouTube, MeTube, EveryoneTube, Tube, Tube

posted by on July 3 at 2:19 PM

Good news!

A federal judge in New York has ordered Google to turn over to Viacom a database linking users of YouTube, the Web’s largest video site by far, with every clip they have watched there.

The order raised concerns among users and privacy advocates that the online video viewing habits of tens of millions of people could be exposed.


For every video on YouTube, the judge required Google to turn over to Viacom the login name of every user who watched it, and the address of their computer, known as an I.P., or Internet protocol, address.

Don't worry, though!

Google and Viacom said they had had discussions about ways to ensure the data is further protected to assure anonymity.

Whew! That was close.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Le réseau du monde

posted by on June 17 at 11:09 AM

The New York Times has a neat article today on Paul Otlet, a Belgian who imagined the internet 57 years before the first web browser was released:

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a “réseau,” which might be translated as “network” — or arguably, “web.”

A short excerpt from a documentary about Otlet, describing his idea for the "electric telescope" network in his treatise Le livre sur le livre.

Otlet is also credited with being the first to declare: "l'Internet est pour la pornographie!"

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Agony of the Late Adopter

posted by on June 9 at 11:59 AM

I just got an iPhone. And now it's obsolete. Or something.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fixies Are So 2007

posted by on May 28 at 9:47 AM

Jet-powered bikes are where it's at now...


The thought of bolting a jet engine to an old Schwinn cruiser came to him about six months ago when "I wanted to throw the engine onto something that would get me around." The bike engines provide 50 pounds of thrust. They weigh 13 pounds apiece, but Maddox says you hardly notice it when you're on the bike. Get it going, though, and things get interesting.

"It accelerates pretty quickly," he says. "It'll hit top speed in about 7 seconds. But even at high speed, it feels very stable. You're just being pushed along on a column of air."

More here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is This the E-Book We're Waiting For?

posted by on May 22 at 12:00 PM


Laptop Magazine has a first look, with video, of the next generation of the One Laptop Per Child project, which is possibly due in 2010. It would be composed of two touch screens, so you can use it as a keypad. But one of the major goals of the initial OLPC was to make it an energy-efficient and, most importantly, eye-friendly e-reader. Setting the thing up to look like a book is a major deal; I'm surprised that more laptop manufacturers haven't done this.

I was intrigued by the OLPC, but I actually bought an Asus EEE as my low-budget, low-weight travel laptop instead. I have no regrets about the EEE, but it certainly isn't an e-reader. This next-generation OLPC looks like maybe the first e-reader that I would actually use from time to time, especially when traveling.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"They Do Not Achieve the Good Movement"

posted by on May 13 at 12:37 PM

I've transcribed this video below for your pleasure, which will only increase when you hear the staccato voice over, but "srsly though," says my friend Patrick, "it's all about the moment he puts his fingers in the big V. ~wiggle."

The birth simulator is composed of two parts—a mechanical part and a virtual part. The birth simulator has four components—a pelvic model, a head linked to a pneumatic actuator, and a forceps. The last mechanical part of the birth simulator are Simpson forceps with two spatial location centers. The head is equipped with a third miniaturized sensor.

My team has designed a new procedure to teach forceps blade placement. Often junior doctors can place the first blade but have a lot difficulties to place the second blade. They do not achieve the good movement. The teaching procedure that was designed by my team allows to train junior doctor to forceps blade placement.

We use—here you can see—spheres that are represented on the screen, and the junior doctor has to go through the spheres in order to place the forceps. This allows to train for a complex movement. You can see here we go through the first sphere, second sphere, third sphere, fourth, and fifth sphere. And we do the complex procedure.

The birth simulator also allows the precise analysis of forceps blade trajectories. The screen display expert trajectories, and you can see a high level of repeatability. On the other hand, this screen displays junior doctor's trajectories, and you can see low level of repeatability. Our goal is to increase the quality of teaching of obstetricians in order to decrease the morbidity—maternal morbidity as well as neo-natal morbidity.

SLOG As A Public Service

posted by on May 13 at 11:44 AM

From my inbox this morning:


My name is xxx, and I’m a Program Manager here at the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft. I work on Excel.

I’m a regular reader of Slog, and saw your post back in February about the lack of custom error bars in Excel 2008.

I just wanted to reach out and let you know that our first Service Pack for Office 2008 became available as of this morning, and custom error bars are now back in the product (along with a host of other fixes and improvements). You can get SP1 from our downloads page.

Thanks very much for your business, and the feedback.
Have a great day!

I started dancing at lab upon hearing this. Custom! Error! Bars!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Today, Robot Learns to Cut Your Ham...

posted by on May 7 at 1:29 PM

...tomorrow, robot longs to cut your throat.

Researchers have created a robot is can learn by doing...

Via Engadget.

Thanks to Slog tipper Reggie.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Spam!

posted by on May 3 at 8:48 AM

Spam reaches 30-year anniversary!

The first recognisable e-mail marketing message was sent on 3 May, 1978 to 400 people on behalf of DEC - a now-defunct computer-maker.

The message was sent via Arpanet - the internet's forerunner - and won its sender much criticism from recipient...

...Statistics gathered by the FBI suggest that 75% of net scams snare people through junk e-mail. In 2007 these cons netted criminals more than $239m (£121m).

Statistics suggest that more than 80%-85% of all e-mail is spam or junk and more than 100 billion spam messages are sent every day.

The majority of these messages are being sent via hijacked home computers that have been compromised by a computer virus.

Friday, May 2, 2008

GTA IV Contest: Posse on Broadway

posted by on May 2 at 3:02 PM

Methinks Rockstar Games would be wise to mock Seattle in a future video game. Your entries for the Grand Theft Auto: Emerald City contest were full of corruption, elitists, slums, bicyclists, asshole developers, and creative uses of landmarks and stereotypes. Well done! Thanks for building the next great crime simulator--and, in the case of entry #35, the next utter, soul-crushing depression simulator. Jesus, man.

Shorter entries with a flair for the cinematic were appreciated:

[After throwing Clay Bennett off of the Space Needle:] The silhouette of Bennett's falling body against backdrop of Key Arena at sunset.
Kidnap the Pig on Parade from Pike's Place market and violate it in no less than two holes.
Film a woman fisting herself on the Jimi Hendrix statue.

Jonah leaned toward these two eloquent, city-appropriate crime ideas:

Smoke a bowl, then steal a bike from a messenger and ride to city hall to hand out pot brownies to the Mayor's staff, all while armed to the teeth.

And my personal favorite came from Steve in Chicago:

Get elected to Emerald City council. Consistently use your influence to table motions expanding greenbelt development while quietly softening restrictions on payday lenders. Also, kill a hooker. Dark irony bonus awarded if you bury her body in a P-Patch.

But, as many of you predicted, the Stranger council wholeheartedly agreed that entry #9 beat everyone to the punch with what's probably the most appropriate "criminal mission" in a Seattle video game:

1. Pick up posse at 23rd and Jackson. 2. Down to MLK. 3. Back to 23rd. 4. Up Union to Broadway. 5. Down Broadway to Taco Bell -- closed! 6. Back to Dick's; pick up girl; start a fight.

S. Ben Melhuish, you life-long Mix-a-Lot fan, this copy of GTA IV for the PS3 is yours. Even though S. Ben later posted that he didn't have a PS3, we didn't care. As Jonah put it, "he can trade that shit in, or cut it up and snort it."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Nasty Keyboard

posted by on May 1 at 9:29 AM

"If you look at what grows on computer keyboards, and hospitals are worse, believe it or not, it's more or less a reflection of what's in your nose and in your gut," [said Dr Wilson, a consultant microbiologist at University College London Hospital...]
Out of 33 keyboards swabbed, four were regarded as a potential health hazard and one harboured five times more germs than one of the office's toilet seats.

Microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson said a keyboard was often "a reflection of what is in your nose and in your gut".

During the Which? tests in January this year, a microbiologist deemed one of the office's keyboards to be so dirty he ordered it to be removed, quarantined and cleaned.

It had 150 times the recommended limit for bacteria - five times as filthy as a lavatory seat tested at the same time, the research found...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Games: 24 Hours Into Grand Theft Auto IV

posted by on April 30 at 2:27 PM


Every minute I play Grand Theft Auto IV, I feel the need to tack on yet another week’s play in order to review it credibly. That’s not because the basic experience has changed. You still control a hired gun whose main abilities--carjacking, driving, shooting, fighting--are employed to do dirty work for bossy assholes. See? Didn’t need weeks or months to figure that out again.

But what throws me off is the weight. I mean that literally--when you get into a car and try driving crazy-fast like the older games, the result is a swerving, crashy mess. Now, the cars feel heavy. Might seem like an immaterial nitpick, but when your GTA IV hoopty plows into a dumptruck or a few passersby on the sidewalk, there’s a tangible difference in the feeling--the feeling of how it controls, and more importantly, the feeling of what you’re doing.

I’m not saying you’ll go moral and feel awful for driving through the sidewalk (or waiting for paramedics to come to the scene and scream, “Don’t you fucking die on me!”). But game maker Rockstar North changed and rebuilt its crime-spree sandbox to feel heavier and overwhelming, as if the fictional city you’re blazing through has some life. In my one day of play, the little things have already begun to add up in Niko Bellic’s quest for revenge, reward, and a new life. Flip on a TV, and you can watch over an hour of original shows produced in Liberty City about Liberty City; the first time I turned it on, real-life cage-wrestling freak Bas Rutten was there to holler at me. Same with the car radio--surf through dozens of music stations (with DJs like Iggy Pop and Juliette Lewis), then flip to the talk radio stations that mock both the fictional city’s right and the left. You’ll find other real-life cameos here and there, from the blatant (stand-up comedians doing full routines) to the buried (turns out the hot dog vendor’s voiced by Fred Armisen). Then there's the hustle and bustle of the living, breathing city, chattering folks all over the streets, tons of New York-accurate monuments, and on and on and on...

This is a game, though, not YouTube, yet the reason you discover half of these YouTube-worthy moments is because you’re finding them while meeting your cousin at a pool bar, or going out on a date, or helping your Jamaican buddies with errands. The game’s makers have gone on and on about the social system in this game, that they want you to care about the people you’re working with and for. That push means nothing without good writing, so thankfully, what I’ve played so far has passed muster. Think of it more like a TV series than a movie in terms of dialogue, as the writers have hours to build a lot of personalities, and they’ve got a pretty good cast of voice-over actors to tackle the cliché-ridden job with humor and personality. GTA IV’s plot and dialogue won’t dethrone The Godfather or The Sopranos anytime soon, but the stuff at least rises above overblown man-boy fare like Entourage (though that lead largely depends on how much you like hearing Balkan expatriates use the word “titties”).

The nuts-and-bolts mostly get the thumbs-up here. Driving, aiming guns, running around--these central actions all mostly feel improved and fluid, so you won’t get frustrated by figuring out how the hell to do something while five mobsters gun you down. To be fair, I’ve gotten plenty aggravated at a few missions already--I’m no GTA expert, and I’ve always given up on previous GTAs because a random, necessary mission was too unbeatable to be fun for me. But the difficulty, this far in, has been scaled much better for my sensibilities. And if one mission is pissing me off, I can bust out my in-game cell phone and find something else to do right away (or, of course, steal a police car and drive it into the ocean for no good reason...or use its in-dash computer to track down crooks and become, erm, a vigilante).

I still have reservations--will the game wind down after doing the same few steal/kill/drive missions over and over? Will the plot and dialogue weaken and stumble with more brutish, misogynistic stereotypes? But the diversity of this title so far has taken me aback, in stark contrast to the game’s slow, boring tutorial missions, certainly. And the 16-player multiplayer modes are a blast--I’ll dig into those in a proper, finished-the-game review in the next week or so, but suffice it to say, they turned out and then some.

Recommendation: I don’t see this game converting anyone who wasn’t swayed by the old games. The controls are complex enough to keep curious outsiders at bay. And GTA IV teeters between social satire and giddy exploitation far too often to make the cultural dent that other reviewers seem to be hinting at. But the target crowd--and the folks holding their breath before plunging into a new games system--have themselves the absolute pinnacle of bang for the buck.

(Want the game? Enter the contest. You still have until early Friday.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wouldn't You Like a Free Copy of GTA IV?

posted by on April 29 at 4:22 PM


Looks like Slog's murderin' sock monkey has an extra copy of Grand Theft Auto IV (and if you can't tell, this copy's for the PlayStation 3). Want it? Then follow the lead of commenters in our last GTA post and enter our contest by making up a mission designed for the imaginary sequel, Grand Theft Auto: Emerald City. (Hat tip to Slog reader Harold for the contest idea.) For the uninitiated, the game's filled with scattered, criminal missions--rob this place, intimidate that guy, drive somewhere to pick up a drug dealer, do something bad at a landmark, etc. To win this contest, come up with a Seattle-specific mission that is authentic to the seedy GTA rep. Good examples thus far: "Bolt from the grocery before paying your 20 cent bag tax," "Lure a dancer away from undercover cops at Ricks," and something about underage girls on Aurora. But I know the Slog nation can do better.

Post your ideas as replies on this post to enter. 80 words or less, please--no need for an essay here. Make sure to type your legit e-mail address when entering your comment, or else we won't be able to contact you if you win. We'll pick our favorite entry as the winner on Friday at 1 p.m. PST, and multiple entries are encouraged. You must be in the USA--both for the cost of shipping and the fact that we think this game's region-locked. Oh, we'll also throw in some GTA IV stickers--in case you like the idea of being pulled over by a cop after he eyes GTA IV star Niko Bellic on your bumper.

As far as impressions go, I'm hesitant to pass judgment just yet. The single-player quest is still largely the same as ever, but I've barely scratched its surface, while the multiplayer modes are growing on me mighty quickly. I'll wait until tomorrow for a "24 Hours Into GTA IV" post.

What the?

posted by on April 29 at 1:22 PM

Did T-Mobile's entire network just go out? What is happening? And why all the sirens outside?

UPDATE: Seriously. Do you have T-Mobile? Try making a phone call. I would call T-Mobile but, uh, I CAN'T!

Alert PETA!

posted by on April 29 at 9:56 AM

Speaking of pigeons dying painful deaths and Grand Theft Auto IV, a gamer on staff writes...

There are hidden packages in Grand Theft Auto IV, just like there were in the previous 3 versions. In GTA IV you have to shoot 100 Pigeons to achieve 100% completion. Not sure if you can select blowgun for one of your weapons though.

More here and here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tiny Techie Tip

posted by on April 28 at 1:52 PM

This discovery just made my job easier:
Converting a .doc to an .html file inside Word results in a rat's nest of MS-brand HTML and CSS. A quick way to get a clean version: Send the file to your Gmail account, then hit "View as HTML" and then view>page source in your browser's toolbar.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Games: 24 36 Hours Into Mario Kart Wii

posted by on April 27 at 1:29 AM

It's a sunny day, so my deeper impressions will have to wait (I'll update this post with more later). In the meantime, for those of you Slog gamers wondering whether or not to buy the Mario Kart Wii game that hits stores tomorrow... well, I don't have a resounding recommendation here. On the downside, the game comes off as a rush job--the art design is pitiful, the number of new tracks is sad, and any four-player play runs choppily enough to be a distraction. In the good news dept, though, there's a new karts-versus-bikes element that is balanced and deep, and the online mode is quick--both in how little time it takes to start a game and how smoothly it plays. As of right now, the thumb teeters upward, if ever so slightly. More to come.


Update: Honestly, the above is about it. Mario Kart's been the same combat-racing video game for years now, and the only real changes to this version are tweaks to make it more newbie-friendly--wider racetracks, easier boosts of speed, better chances of recovering if you get stuck in last-place. These are the things that have made Mario Kart Wii a total hit in hours-long four-player frenzies from the past few nights with my non-gamer posse, and that's not to say the skill has been sucked out of this one. Better put, the game's barrier to entry, which had risen in fanboy-payoff versions of the past few years, has come back down to earth, and unless you're a sullen cretin who can't stand a random loss, the game's the better for it.

To be fair, when I first saw footage and reviews of this game, I'd resigned myself to hating it. MKW looks like the same old game Nintendo has shoveled up for years, and in many respects, it is. But even when Nintendo phones one in, they still pull off surprises, like MKW's spread of oddball racetracks, refinement of the party-racing formula, and--I cannot stress this enough--replay value that comes from the first half-decent online mode in a Wii game. It's not Xbox Live, and childproof "friend codes" make setting up friend-only matches a pain in the ass, but for a online racing game with no monthly fees, this one's something else. MKW is probably priced $20 too high--this is a rushed version of Mario Kart's Greatest Hits, after all--but compared to fanboy-crazy Super Smash Bros, you might actually convince buddies and significant others to play along. Since the rest of the Wii's party-games catalog is a wasteland, you could do worse than this shameless-yet-refined retread.

Coming soon -- Grand Theft Auto IV. My copy arrives Monday, and I look forward to rubbing my, er, nine-hour head start in your noses.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Longer Will I Be the Only Grown Man at Safeco with a DS

posted by on April 22 at 9:41 AM


Stupidest thing the Mariners did last year? Some might answer not snapping up a real-deal manager like Joe Torre during the offseason, but the real answer is something a little more menial--charging fans eight bucks to bring a DS to the game.

Nintendo's ballclub (and source of a zillion video games starring Ken Griffey Jr) introduced a seemingly cool feature to Safeco Field last year, proving that the team's demands for millions from taxpayers years ago were sound and prudent. In 2007, you could bring a Nintendo DS to the park and, through its Wi-Fi capabilities, use it to do all kinds of baseball-related things: Watch a muted TV broadcast of the game to catch instant replays not shown on the jumbotron, avoid lines by ordering beer and food to be delivered to your seat, and look up every matter of statistic about this game and any other MLB game that day. Trouble was, the money-grubbers wanted eight five bucks for the service per game--or you could buy an overpriced season pass and watch the savings melt away!

I tried this out one game last year, and you know what I got? Food/drink prices that were at least $2 more across the already inflated board; a splotchy, hard-to-view video of the game that was already right before my eyes; and stats about the Kansas City Royals. Oh, and glares from the mom one row up, five seats over, who stated with her eyes that she didn't appreciate me trolling for 12-year-olds on Pictochat. Not worth eight five bucks.

Anyway, as of today, the service has been upgraded to free. I'm not getting my hopes up about the "new features" that are being vaguely promised--maybe you can touch the screen and start the wave or something?--but at the price of $0, I'll admit that there's some fun in forcing a poor concession stand girl to stomp to the top of section 344 and deliver chicken fingers to fatties, and when I used the thing last year, I did get a decent instant-replay shot of a guy getting beaned in the stomach. So to my chubby, violent, fully-grown DS-owning comrades, I say this--descend upon Safeco in droves, stare at your tiny screens mid-game, and be satisfied!

(Apologies for the price error from last season. Even with the correction, the rip-off is still accurate.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Games: I Want to Give You VD

posted by on April 17 at 12:49 PM

There's comfort in the Van Damme genre of video games--better known as the "beat 'em up," which kicked off in the '80s with arcade brawlers Renegade and Double Dragon. You're typically a dude with issues and a burning desire to walk from left to right. I call them Van Damme games because everything about them is stupid--the testosteronicious plots, the simple, button-mashy fights, the fact that enemies rarely attack two-at-a-time, and so on.

While straight-up fighting games have gotten smarter and crazier over the years, the button-mashy Van Damme titles still stomp along. Blame swords--all the big games in the genre now employ 'em, God of War most famously of them all. Anybody can run around and punch underlings, but in that one, you're a shirtless Greek god with a flaming sword-whip and a jones for ripping heads off of Minotaurs--right after you fuck busty maidens by pressing buttons to the rhythm, no less. Arrogant, horny, and violent? Van Damme lives! That game just saw a prequel come out on PSP, but since I don't own one (I just borrow Michael Strahan's), two other recent, decent games riddled with VD are after the jump.

Continue reading "Games: I Want to Give You VD" »

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And If They're Not Sold Yet...

posted by on April 16 at 9:08 PM

...Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset!

Please enjoy* this lovely once-internal Microsoft video, extolling the virtues of Windows Vista SP1.

Putting aside the issue of how much money this video must have cost to produce, who could possibly think this was a good idea? Even if it didn't leak online--which it inevitably did--is this really supposed to motivate Windows sales reps to anything besides ritual suicide? How much Kool-Aid would one have to drink to think this was non-horrifying?

Note to giant corporations with no sense of humor: stop trying.

Lest we forget:

*video not actually enjoyable

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Games: Import Games for Outsiders

posted by on April 10 at 3:01 PM

Further proof that I’m an aging geek: I call my DS a “Game Boy” from time to time. It wasn’t so long ago that I felt compelled by Lord Raiden to correct my mother’s every 16-bit slip (“Don’t call it ‘the Nintendo,’ it’s a SEGA GENESIS”), but I’ve got a soft spot for the old, green-and-black wonder. Yet in spite of my stunted adulthood, I somehow outpaced the Game Boy; its “Micro” redesign from 2004 didn’t take off, and its original heyday of fun pick-up-and-play games devolved when Pokemon and cartoon license games became top-sellers.

Japan’s a different story--the Game Boy was strong there until the very end, assuming you could wade through the other sea’s endless pachinko and horse-betting games. So when I caught myself saying “Game Boy” the other day, I got a hankering for some late-era GBA games that never came stateside. I don’t count myself as an import-gaming expert--not an anime fan, not into convoluted RPGs, not into androgynous dudes with names other than David Bowie--but these couple that came up on my radar a year or so ago were shockingly good, and all kinds of accessible to boot. With both the DS dominating and the “Wii Ware” downloadable game service launching in a few months, I’d like to think Nintendo can finally ship these gems overseas. Plus, they’re more interesting to talk about than the next game on my review queue, Devil May Cry 4 (see the androgynous dudes comment above). Hope you enjoy the detour after the jump.

Continue reading "Games: Import Games for Outsiders" »

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Re: Low Production Value Theater

posted by on April 9 at 3:47 PM

Paul, I'm tempted to chastise you for linking to a years-old download site, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with plugging the best of the old gaming era--the storied, dusty text adventure. Still, why stop there? This is the modern era, and just as any shlub can start a band, a blog, or a paid sex site on the Internet, so too can they become a bona fide author of interactive fiction.

The barrier to entry has kept modern IF pretty meaty--it's not a profitable enterprise in the world of the Wii and 360, but annual contests at sites like and have kept hardcore followers sated for over a decade. The above links (along with the semi-newbie-friendly Baf's Guide) have tons of reviews, recommendations and downloads for anybody eager to LOOK, TAKE, and USE an interactive fiction game of their own.

I'm compelled to point out a recent Games for Windows Magazine article about IF (which I got a few of those links from), as the mag shut down this week--proving that music mags aren't the only ones falling by the wayside these days. Didn't read the mag? Shame, because GFW was a rare breed of gaming mag that treated its readers--and outsiders--like adults, telling compelling stories that went beyond reviews and previews (Native American depictions in games, debate-style run-throughs of popular titles, how games and politics were beginning to sensibly meld, etc.). In an era when video games finally deserve long-form articles, it's sad to see a mag fall apart right at its stride, when it was delivering on the goods and rising above the never-ending sea of nerdy blogs. RIP, GFW.