Saturday, September 24, 2005

iPod Nano Review

I got my iPod Nano! First impression - this thing is so tiny it's funny! As someone from the dorm across the hall noted, "it doesn't even look like a real iPod, it looks more like a toy!"
As usual, Apple used typically extravagent packaging that makes the sheer act of buying and opening the Nano an experience. It came on a tiny little black box (about the size of a Shuffle box) which was placed in a special "commemorative" bag to take it home in. That thing turned a few heads on the bus!
The back of the box has a shot that would make anyone covet this thing...
The inner part (with the silver apple on the spine) slides out and opens like a book to reveal the Nano sitting in a custom cutout, wrapped in protective plastic, with a little plastic tab to help you pull it out. The headphones, cable, CD-ROM and other such things are tucked away in two pouches in the left part of the box.

Did I mention the thing is small?
And of course, size comparison against the thinkness of my old Shuffle: the Nano is actually thinner.
So far, I'm very impressed. Sound quality is great (it is an iPod, y'know?). Battery life is great - I played with it a ton last night from about 7:00 on, a bit today, and I spent the last 2-3 hours trying to deliberately run down the battery by keeping the backlight on nonstop. It's still going. The scroll wheel is a a design concept that works beautifully (as Andy can attest to), and 4 gig is plenty to fit my measly collection of music. Plus, the black model is simply the sexiest device I've ever held! Some people complain about the headphone jack being on the "bottom," but I really haven't had a problem with it.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and this review wouldn't be complete without the two minor flaws:

1.) The scroll wheel is a little too sensitive. It's fairly easy to adapt to this, but it would be nicer if the sensitivity could be adjusted.

2.) Sharing a flaw with the similarly beautiful PSP, the Nano's beauty comes with a price: shiny black and chrome may look awesome, but they pick up fingerprints like nobody's business! Scratches could be another problem, but I've been lucky enough to avoid any on the front as of yet (there's a small one on the back).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First Comic is Done!

I got the scanner, and was able to put together the first issue/episode/page of my new webcomic

(Click image for larger view)

Ok, so i went overboard on the shading a little bit... I was trying to follow Ian McConville's tutorial on how he does Mac Hall. Or at least, how he did it at one point. His style has changed a couple times over the years. My drawing style is quite different from any of his, but I think the shading technique still worked pretty well.

Anyway, this is the first of a series of comics I'll be making in my free time to document silly/funny things that happen around campus (mostly on my floor, y'know, since I live here and all). I have several ideas waiting to be made into comics, but I still don't have a name for the webcomic as a whole! I'm open to suggestions, so feel free to leave a comment.

In other news, the Apple Store finally has 4 gig iPod nanos back in stock, and since I was on the list they're holding one for me to pick up tomorrow evening. Expect an in-depth (and probably drool-soaked) review tomorrow night!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Free Opera - Permanently

Some people (who may or may not be named Andy) will be happy to hear that the Opera Browser team have extended the "free registration code for our birthday" offer until... forever. That's right, Opera is now totally free, no ads, no registration. Too bad I'm already rather attached to Firefox on Windows/Linux, and Safari on Mac OS X.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Fly Me to the Moon...

Looks like NASA is finally going back to the moon. I, for one, am excited. For too long we've been wasting our time (not to mention billions of dollars) spinning pretty little circles around our own planet. It's time to move on, and this return to the moon is the first step in getting NASA off it's ass. Even better, the new design, similar to the Apollo rockets, has the crew capsule on the top of the boosters, making the whole "shedding foam that could hit the crew capsule" problem irrelevant. (duh!)

I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bravo, Bush. Bravo.

I bet a lot of you never expected to see a title like that out of me, huh? Well, this is a special occasion. President Bush has not only admitted that there were failures all over the government when it came to responding to Katrina, he said he takes responsibility for those failures, and wants to find out exactly where and how things went wrong at every level of government. I'm very glad he pointed out the obvious (to me, at least) link between how effective we are at responding to a massive natural disaster and how effective we'd be against an equally massive terrorist attack.

Of course, there's always the possibility this is just a political move to gain back lost popularity, but I'm willing to give Bush the benefit of doubt on this one. Watch the video with that CNN article - he genuinely sounds humbled by this.

So bravo, Mr. President. I may be wholeheartedly against 99% of the other things your administration has done over the last 5 years, but you have my complete support in this particular endeavor.

...I feel so dirty!

Clarification - Some people have taken this post to mean that I have become a proto-Bush supporter. This couldn't be farther from the truth! I'm just glad to see him finally admit failure, and I truly hope he's sincere in his wanting to get to the bottom of the structural problems in our emergency response system. It doesn't make up for all the other things I disagree with, but it's a tiny ray of light through an otherwise cloudy sky.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Nano, Thou Shalt be Mine

Ok, so I have no willpower. I admit it. I'm going to get a black 4 GB iPod Nano. The 3-times-a-week 20 minute walks to my drama classes just made me yearn for a more capable player than my Shuffle. Besides, who can argue with carrying your entire music library, and still being able to have 2 GB free for other stuff - hell, I could hold the uncompressed DVD image for my movies in that!

Unfortunately, the Apple Store here in Syracuse is out of them. They got the shipment in last night, and they're already out. Wow, I knew they'd be popular, but that's nuts! So now I'm on the waitlist, and will be called as soon as more are in. They did have a 2 GB display model left that I was able to play with. Pretty slick - as thin as it is, it actually feels sturdier than my Shuffle, probably because of the metal back. The weight is just right, the screen is clear and bright, and the scroll wheel works fine. I want!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Political Musings Around Deus Ex

Before I say anything, let me point out that this is just my random musing over an idea I thought up about 5 minutes ago. It isn't a well-constructed or complete argument, nor do I intend it to be - just me spitting out what I'm thinking about.

I don't know how many of my friends actually played through a significant part of Deus Ex, (most found it too slow) but I finished it last year and really enjoyed it. One thing I found interesting about it was the way it depicted the near-future of our world. The world of Deus Ex is filled with fear and terrorism. Some leaders (political and otherwise) use this fear to further thair own adgendas. Of course, being a video game, their adgendas mainly center around variants of "take over the world," but I still found it to be an interesting parallel to our own world. (Here is where all my conservative friends just opened their mouths and started shaking their heads - bear with me!) The fact that the game came out before 9/11 made it seems all the more prophetic. The fact that leaders exploiting fears over terrorism played prominently gave me the impression that this was a "liberal-friendly/sympathizing" game.

I recently found a review of the game from when it was new (2000) in which the author laments the fact that the game's designers took up "ultra-right fantasies" for much of the games plot. He said "a plot which fingers the UN as the chief agency seeking world domination is only heading one way politically", and noted "a wimpy liberal isn’t going to find much attractive about their final choices."

Wait - I'm a liberal, I loved this game, and it's plot most of all! I guess my point is that politics aren't static. What was considered a "right" game under Clinton can now be considered a "left" game under Bush. I guess that would just make it an "anti-government" game, although newspaper clippings and e-mails tend to paint a favorable picture of the fictional President Mead, who opposes the the increased powers of UNATCO.

Actually, I guess I don't really have too much of a point, just throwing my observations out there. I just found the difference between my impression of the game and this review's.

Thoughts, anyone?

More News From Apple Land

iPod Nano = Cool

Leave it to Apple to release a product that I in no way need, but really, really want! The new iPod Nano replaces the iPod Mini, Apple's previously best-selling iPod (and the one Andy has). It's smaller, unbelievably thin, and in my opinion the sexiest looking iPod yet. As I said, I have no need for one. my Shuffle still works fine, and the new Nanos are a bit overpriced (like all 1st-gen iPod models) - but they're still cool! I guess I'll have to stick it out and hold on to my conviction to not buy another iPod until video models come out (or until I make a radical shift and start litsening to enough music that a Shuffle won't cut it) but this new iPod will make that hard!

Apple also announced the Motorola ROKR, which plays iTMS songs. Meh - I prefer different devices for different tasks.

There's also a new version of iTunes (version 5) that adds more search capabilities, folders in the playlist pane, parental controls, "smart" shuffle (lowers the chances of playing two songs from the same artist back to back), and a more streamlined interface.

Finally, Quicktime 7 for Windows is done! now when I finally get my movie site working again, people can all view the H.264 video. This version should be included with the iTunes 5 download. Also! - for my iTunes-hating friends, you can download Quicktime 7 without having to get iTunes, they just hide it. Here's the link to the Quicktime 7 Standalone Player.

UPDATE: Tried out the final version of Windows QT7. Bad news - H.264 performance still sucks. Looks like viewing the DVD-quality versions of my movies online for now will be limited to those with sickeningly fast computers... or Macs. I do find it odd that My 2.2 (actual) GHz Athlon XP 3200 can't keep up with my 1.6 GHz G4 Powerbook. I guss this is just one of those rare cases in which AltiVec actually makes a big difference.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What the Hell?

If you needed any more proof that our government doesn't know what they're doing with the aftermath of Katrina, here it is. Yes, I'm sure handing out fliers with contact information for FEMA is important, but it doesn't need to be done by firefighters! Their skills would be put to much better use, oh I don't know, saving people?

This is FEMA we're talking about - the people who are supposed to know how to handle a natural disaster. And don't get me started on the 50 assigned to be walking publicity stunts for the president... The Daily Kos has a nice rant on that.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Flint 1A Rules!

I love my floor. Syracuse University, Flint Hall, first floor, A wing now has, without a doubt, the most awesome lounge ever.

I present... stadium seating!

So in short: boredom + college students + furniture + a few large "aquired" buckets = awesomeness!

UPDATE: Bed risers stacked on top of tables do not make a very sturdy base for a couch with 2-3 people on it. The back row is down! The others should be stable enough to stay put, as long as we don't get any (understandably) nervous R.D.'s snooping around...

ANOTHER UPDATE: The awesomeness is no more - our RA's got nervous. The stadium seating is gone, back to boring old "normal" furniture arrangements.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans Blog

This is incredible: Survival of New Orleans Blog
It's the blog of a guy at a New Orleans hosting company who stayed behind to ride out the storm and maintain the network. It gives a very different (and horrifying) look at the situation down there than what you see on TV. In his words, "It's Lord of The Flies out there!"

This is really bad...

On a totally unrelated note: Ok, comment spam has gotten out of control, so I've implemented word verification on comments.

Settled In

First week of classes is over, I think I finally know my way around (mostly), and now I can just sit down and update this blog. First of all - click that Red Cross link up there. It only takes a minute, and every little bit helps. Katrina really wreaked hell on the gulf coast, and the survivors need all the help they can get.

Now that that's off my chest, on the college stuff. I promised pictures awhile ago, so here they are. My dorm room in all its glory... (W00t! Big Matrix poster!)

And another view...

Classes have been OK so far, but I have developed an intense hatred for textbooks. I chose to preorder mine, figuring it would make my life easier. Nope. It seems the $200 worth of books they handed me upon arriving was only for two classes! I spent an additional $140 for Writing, and still have to buy stuff for Art Media and Anthropology of American Life on Film. Grrr...

Anyway, with all the crazy/random/funny crap that goes on at college, I've decided there's no way I can'tget back into webcomics. This time I'll be making an actual drawn comic, not sprites. Everything will be based on things that actually happen here. My parents are going to send up the spare (?) scanner, but I did do this test using the "digital camera as a scanner" trick - a trick that works very poorly, as the lines come out all blurry and messy. Blurry lines = hard to color and shade on the computer. The image below is my "comic" rendering of me and my roommate, who is saying an actual quote of his (quite frequently during the first 3 or 4 days).

I think it turned out pretty good, especially since it's not a style I frequently draw in. Putting that little picture on my door has already generated a few comments, so at the very least it looks like my hall will be readers. I won't have any finished comics until the scanner gets here (not doing the camera thing again...). I'll post a link here when it's up. I'll probably be using Comic Genesis (formerly KeenSpace) for hosting - anyone know much about them?

Oh, and there seem to be problems with the Hanley Films server, so that website is back to its "Coming Soon" page for now. I hope I don't have to find new hosting. Y'know, like something I pay for...