Monthly Archives: November 2005

The Gaming Industry Is In For A Crash

This isn’t my rant, it belongs to someone else but I can’t find much to it that I disagree with.

I don’t usually post doom-and-gloom predictions from anybody, I don’t usually find much believable about them. But this time I have to wonder what we are going to get from the next generation of gaming consoles that is going to make everybody want to move to them and how are we going to get out of a rut where eight of the top ten selling titles for October are sequels to existing games.

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Free Web Designs

When I needed a web design for my still uncompleted project Lunarcoast or for a couple of projects at work I turned to the site OSWD.org (Open Source Web Design) to find a design I liked that would hopefully look good, and would be well designed to use CSS for most of its formatting so I could change its look quickly to conform to the way I wanted it to look. I’m still happy with what I got there but the site has recently undergone an internal conflict between people running it. The result has been that it has been unavailable for some time and that’s really unfortunate. There are designs there for all kinds of web sites and people need what they are offering.
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like they worked out the conflict amicably but it has been resolved in a way that will allow people to once again get access to web designs. Just go to the new Open Web Design to find a new website which will be serving the same function and which seems to have all the old designs OSWD had. At the same time, OSWD itself has opened back up and is undergoing a makeover as well. Maybe we’ll all be lucky and the competition will produce two great sites for web design.

An Easy To Setup Instant Messenger Server

We were communicating confidential information back and forth between each other using an instant messenger which regularly sent messages outside the building to servers we didn’t control. To get it back to being an internal only thing, I setup Jive Software: Jive Messenger XMPP (Jabber) Server and had everybody connect to it with Jabber compatible clients like Gaim, Psi, and Trillian.
Setup was a breeze. I had it up and running in 30 minutes and was connecting our first machines to it. It has a nice admin console (accessible via browser) which I’ve barely had to use so far. It’s open source, it’s written in Java, it’s easy to setup, what’s not to like.
If you need instant messaging and you need to control your own server, I think you will be happy with this.

Google Print vs. The Open Library vs. Project Gutenberg

Introduction

Even before its debut a lot was written about Google Print and The Open Library managed to snag some columnar inches as well when the project announced that they had funding to scan some 150,000+ books which had fallen out of copyright in the US.
While I can’t pretend that this is going to be in any way a scholarly take on the two services I do want to discuss how the two services differ from each other as well as from the much older Project Gutenberg archives of digitized books and do so in more detail than I was seeing in article after article that barely discussed what actually using the sites was like.
This article about the Open Library gives you an overview of how the books end up in digital form and it’s doubtful that there is a lot of difference between how this is done in Google’s project or The Open Library. If you are at all interested in the mechanics of the process, it’s a good read and not particularly long.

Note: Because The Open Library is only going to do books right now which are in the public domain I picked the Henry James novel An International Episode for most of the examples below. In its original version it had illustrations mixed with text, it is long out of copyright, and the same edition is available from both Google and The Open Library making for easy comparison of how the two services deal with the same book.

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Google Releases Desktop Search/Sidebar


It’s Google’s world and we just live in it…
Is there any week in which Google doesn’t announce some new service, feature, piece of software or something? Recently they have released a new version of Picasa, my favorite choice for photo album software, shown a pre-beta version of the Google Reader (a future commentary), debuted Google Print (which I will be talking about in detail shortly), and brought Google Desktop 2 out of beta.
Let’s talk about this last item right now as I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Google Desktop here. With Microsoft maybe choosing to remove their own sidebar software from the next version of Windows to offer you easy access to information tools, you should take a look at Google Desktop. It is an interesting piece of software you can download now and not worry about what Microsoft may or may not do in the next version of Windows.
You can use Google Desktop as just a piece of software which indexes all your local documents (email, text files, Word documents, etc.) and then use a local search to search both it and the main Google website. It’s arguably much faster than crude search systems like the one built into Windows, it doesn’t cost anything, etc. But if you only use it that way you miss out on some of its best features. That’s because if you have the screen real estate to accomodate it (as I am lucky enough to on my widescreen laptop and on my dual screen system at work), it will display news, weather, pull email from various accounts (including Google Mail if you already use that), updates to web pages you’ve visited recently, etc. Plus, it allows all sorts of plug-ins to expand both its ability to search into different file formats and offer other features (like Google Maps support). If you have some screen real estate you can devote to it, this is a good app to start and leave running. I’m certain you’ll find yourself using it.

Sci-Fi Update

In a totally expected move, the SciFi channel has renewed Battlestar Galactica for a third season. This was announced before season two has even concluded, indicating the level of satisfaction SciFi is feeling with the ratings of the acclaimed series.
In an unexpected move, the BBC has announced that they will be doing a spinoff series of Doctor Who called Torchwood. It will feature the character of Captain Jack who appeared in several episodes of the highly successful return of Doctor Who last year. Note: This is not the first time Doctor Who has spun off another series. K9 and Company appeared many decades ago but disappeared after only a few episodes. Hopefully this effort will be much better.
Lastly, a great show that not nearly enough of you are watching. Threshold will be making available three episodes for online viewing in the near future. When told of this, my wife thought exactly the same thing I did. “Great! People who aren’t already watching it can see the first three episodes and then they’ll see how cool it is and they can get into the story.” Well, unfortunately, that would be logical and TV channels don’t do logical. The episodes available for online viewing will be the third, as well as two upcoming episodes. So, right idea, wrong execution.
I don’t like to encourage people to break the law and downloading episodes of any of these shows is against the law (except for these three, seemingly randomly chosen, episodes of Threshold). But do what you can to find a way to get into these three series. The first season of Doctor Who is available on DVD, as is the Battlestar Galactica Mini-series (winner of a Hugo award) and the first season. Threshold isn’t on DVD yet as the first season is still running. Since it’s not sitting atop the ratings heap it’s tough to know at this point whether it will be renewed or not so waiting until a DVD set is released to attract new viewers seems short-sighted on CBS’s part.
In fact, there are a host of episodic series with a progressive storyline that depend on you watching every episode and watching them in order now. 24 is the one of the most obvious examples of this. Threshold and Galactica both have a couple of episodes you could skip but for the most part have a continuing story line that threads its way through almost every show. How do you enter into Lost or 24 late in the season when everybody starts raving about it if you didn’t get to watch from the start? Apple’s ability to download TV shows through iTunes is one way, but their selection is extremely limited at this time and if the various director, actor, studios, etc. get their way, I’m confident that the cost of downloading a single episode will either climb to $5/show or else stop altogether. I don’t know what to suggest, but I hope you find some way to get the existing episodes of these series and join in.