An Open Letter to Instant Messenger ProgrammersJan 21, 2008
Dearest Instant Messenger Programmers,
Let me first thank you for the time and effort you make in creating programs to allow people all around the world to avoid actually making real friends and communicate with others when they have laryngitis.
I do have one minor request, however. Could you please alter your programs to restrict the use of odd symbols and characters in usernames. You know, like [email protected](R0W and /\[email protected]+d%m. Now I realize that people are idiots and cannot help thinking they are clever and unique when they use wacky symbols in their name, so I’m holding you programmers responsible. You should know better. So please, correct this error so our buddy lists can once again look like a list of friends and not a pile of paper snowflakes.
Sen. Barack Obama Forgives CNN on Behalf of all PeJan 21, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama Forgives CNN on Behalf of all People with the Last Name Obama
The Associated Press reported today that a spokesman for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has forgiven CNN for accidentally labeling a story about Osama bin Laden with the headline “Where’s Obama?”
Osama’s press secretary… I mean, Obama’s press secretary Tommy Vieto demonstrated his amazing observational ability when he went on to say “I’d note that the ’s’ and ‘b’ keys aren’t all that close to each other…”
In a related story, Sen. Obama went on a killing spree and murdered everyone else on the planet with the last name of Obama. At least, I’m assuming he did, because otherwise how could he forgive CNN on behalf of all the Obamas?
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said he would “be making a call to him (Obama… or maybe Osama?) this morning to offer [his] personal apology.” Blitzer has not yet commented on when he will be making his personal apology to the hundreds of other Obamas living in the United States and abroad.
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII for Nintendo WiiJan 21, 2008
Since Gamespot.com and Ign.com are too busy reviewing Wii Virtual Console games to talk about Ubisoft’s newly released “Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII,” then let me take this opportunity to review it myself. My prediction, based on their lack of coverage for the game, is that it will score low in their reviews. That’s okay though, because I’ll be happy to give you an unbiased review based on my own experience with the game.
The graphics are really unimpressive, even for Wii standards. Now understand that it is not the planes themselves that are the problem. In fact, the planes you fly and fight against all look fabulous. The problem is with the ground buildings and units. Now the units on the ground don’t really need to look great, because you’ll be flying by them so fast, and hopefully blowing them up, that it won’t matter. In fact, the explosions from the destroyed ground units and crashed aircraft actually look good. However, the buildings do not have a great deal of detail. Don’t get me wrong, cities like London are huge and do not look flat at all, and the low-resolution buildings could be acceptable, if not for the complete lack of any anti-aliasing. This means you will see a lot of jagged edges on everything you see on the ground. Not to mention the ground itself looks absolutely horrible. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how close to the ground you are simply because the ground looks just as pixilated from high up as it does from near the ground. Smoothing out a few pixely edges and upgrading to a high-res ground would have been worth a small downgrade in airplane model quality, which as I mentioned looks fantastic. It is worth mentioning that even though the ground looks crummy and the buildings are jaggy, the colors and style seem to be filtered through some old-timey war movie lense. This actually improves the visuals enough that I am willing to forgive the graphic faults. Also, the framerate is smooth and steady. It only slowed down a little bit on the London map during a multiplayer dogfight, but even then the reduced framerate was barely noticeable.
GRAPHICS SCORE: 2 out of 5 stars
I’ve heard people complain about Ubisoft’s control problems, particularly with Red Steel. Well you can rest easy in knowing that they nailed it with “Blazing Angels.” Players are given the option of using 5 different control methods, including a remote-only style held like how you do in “Excitebike.” The four other styles use either the nunchuck as the “flight stick” or the remote. Now when using the remote for axis control (that’s for plane tilting, not the German forces) you do not hold it vertically like you would a real flight stick. Instead, the remote is held like how you do a regular remote. For this reason, I prefer using the nunchuck control, which feels more like a real flight stick and has the primary and secondary fire buttons mapped to the Z and C buttons (on the nunchuck) respectively. The plane responds instantly and accurately to every tilt and turn, no matter how slight or exaggerated the movement. In addition, the throttle is mapped to the analogue stick, which makes speed control just as easy as axis control. Wingman commands are issued with the directional pad on the remote, along with landing gear and view control (a cockpit view has been added since the Xbox and PC version). And speaking of other consoles, it is my opinion that the superior controls on the Wii make up for any graphical difference between the Wii and the PS3.
CONTROL SCORE: 5 out of 5 stars
With 20 missions, each which last a minimum of 15 minutes, there is a fair amount of content for the campaign. In addition, there is a ranking system for each mission and objectives are reviewed at the end of the mission, showing the player how he could obtain the “Ace” rank on any given level. It adds a replay value to the game and will require different attack strategies in order to complete the missions fast enough to obtain the best rank. Players can track their progress in that respect by reviewing their medals. Also, there are several other modes available once the player has completed the first mission. An arcade mode requires the player to fight a wave of enemies, an ace mode pits the player against an ace pilot flying the same plane, and a mini-mission mode lets the player play through 6 random mini-missions. Completing these bonus modes unlock additional content. For example, downing an enemy pilot in Ace Mode unlocks the “Ace Paintjob” for that particular aircraft. And speaking of aircraft, there are dozens of different planes to choose from, allowing a player to retry missions using different planes with better (or worse) features.
CONTENT SCORE: 4 out of 5 stars
This is where many of you probably skipped to. There was a rumor going around that Ubisoft would be including a 16-player online mode. Alas, the multiplayer is limited to only a two-player split screen mode. However, I did make a couple of interesting observations that I will discuss in a moment. The multiplayer mode itself has plenty of options: from dogfights, to bombing runs, time limits, respawn limits, point systems, the era of planes which appear, and more. As I mentioned, the framerate is very good in multiplayer mode, though there was a barely noticeable decrease on the London level. I can imagine the multiplayer mode will get plenty of use from people who enjoy trying different aerial maneuvers to waste their opponents and secure bragging rights.
Now for the interesting observations. The instruction book has a line in it that mentions “all offline modes.” However, there is only one multiplayer mode in the game, and it is just as “offline” as the single player campaign. In addition, with the exception of this line, there is no other mention of a multiplayer mode. The book does not even discuss the two-player split screen mode included in the game. This is either an oversight by the booklet writer, or because an online mode was intended, but never included, or both. Now some people have suggested that Ubisoft could release a patch later that unlocks the online mode later on when Nintendo is ready. Those people suggesting this have been mocked as being “wishful thinkers,” but perhaps they should not be mocked so quickly. I also noted something odd in the multiplayer screen. The control and sound options screens all default to having one option highlighted. This means that, for example, on the sound screen, one of the changeable options is already highlighted and you simple need to press left or right to change the option. However, with the multiplayer mode, none of the changeable options are highlighted. In fact, the title of the “GAME MODE,” which is “Split Screen” is typed as if it is an option, and it is highlighted. You have to press down to select one of the changeable options. Now what does this mean? Well, if it is true that an online mode exists but is not enabled yet, the way to access that would probably be through the multiplayer screen. And since the game defaults to highlighting the GAME MODE “Split Screen” it may be that the “mode” could be changed in the future to select “Online Play.” How’s that for “wishful thinking?”
MULTIPLAYER SCORE: 3 out of 5 stars
Online multiplayer would have been great, and the ground graphics could have looked better, but overall this is a great arcade-style WWII flight simulator that is fun to play alone or with a friend. The number of missions and game modes, while not overwhelming, do provide plenty of content to keep a player satisfied for a long time. If you want an entertaining flight sim with great controls, then you will find “Blazing Angels” to be a worthy purchase.
OVERAL SCORE: 4 out of 5 stars.
Teacher Forces 400 Students to Give Up ReadingJan 21, 2008
At least, this is what the article by the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail would have you believe. Apparently a well-liked teacher at St John’s C of E School in Midsomer Norton, Somerset read a few passages from the end of the final Harry Potter book. These passages were selected by the teacher to be read to her graduating class because she felt the content pertained to her students graduating and moving on with their lives, much like the characters in the book. However some students did not see it this way.
A few students and parents are quoted as being upset by the spoiler, but the real amazement comes not from the fact that the teacher read the end of a popular book, but how Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations reacted to the event. Morrissey said of the teacher that ”it was unforgivable. It’s one of the cruelest things she could have done, even if she didn’t mean it.” Funny, because I can think of hundreds of things more cruel than reading the end of a book to some children, one of which includes trying to ruin a respected teachers career for making a minor, if unimportant mistake.
Margaret Morrissey went on to say that “this act will probably stop all those children [from] reading the book.” Unfortunately for Miss Morrissey, this viewpoint is severely out of touch with reality. Now, few people would deny that reading the end of a book is impolite, but any true fan of the Harry Potter series won’t let a few minor spoilers stop them from reading all 607 pages (759 in the US) of the final installment of their beloved book series.
In light of this being a simple error in judgement, and absolutely no harm was done to these children mentally or physically, I believe it is Miss Morrissey who has done the real harm in this situation. Hopefully Margaret will apologize to the teacher, who I will not name, and the parents and students will go on with their lives instead of feeling like victims of a crime.
Don’t Foward Emails, Unless You Want to Get SpammeJan 21, 2008
Don’t Foward Emails, Unless You Want to Get Spammed!
So you’ve just returned from a vacation to Hawaii and the first thing you do when you walk through the door is plop down at your computer to check your email. Here is an email that offers you a great deal on viagra. Here is another email from the President of Nigeria who needs you to send him money in order to get a check for millions of dollars. Oh look, here is a fowarded message from your Aunt Carol. Isn’t Hercules the giant Mastiff cute? You weed through the piles and piles of spam and pick out the funny fowarded messages sent to you by your friends and family. The good messages and the bad spam don’t seem to have anything to do with each other, do they? Well, you’re wrong!
For nearly every piece of spam sitting in your inbox, you can thank your Aunt Carol, or your sister Carolyn, or your brother… uh, Carl. Or you can even blame yourself! You see, when someone forwards you an email message, they are sending you a list of all the people that they sent that message to, yourself included. If you then forward that message to your own friends and family, then you are sending all those name, including yours, to the next group of people, and those names are being added as well. Pretty soon, you’ve got hundreds of names, including those of you and your friends, all in a convienent little email.
Let’s take a look at it mathematically. If you send an email to just 3 people, and each person waits a whole day to send it to 3 more, then 9 people will have received the message by tomorrow. At the end of one week, your message will have reached 6,561 people. After a fortnight (that’s two weeks), it will have reached over 14 million people.
Now let me ask you this, with all of the spam you have sitting in your inbox, what are the odds that at least one out of those 14 million people is the spammer (person who sends spam). Considering all that spam you get in your inbox, the odds are pretty high that your fowarded messages have reach dozens, maybe even hundreds of spammers. And since you are the one who fowarded the message, the spammers know that your email address has a real person checking the mail everyday. Since real email addresses are worth a lot of money in the spam market, your email address will be sold to other spammers who will be kind enough to send you even more spam.
So what can you do about the problem? Well, you could stop fowarding messages, but I know you’re not going to do that. You might ask people to delete your name from the email header before they forward your message along to other people, but you know your friends aren’t going to do that either. So what is the solution? It’s really very simple. Start enjoying that spam! Sign up for free samples of sex enhancing herbs! Tell the President of Nigeria that his Western Union money order is on its way! Learn to love the colorful language used to describe the human body!
Or, you could just stop forwarding emails and save yourself, and your friends, the trouble of a box full of spam everytime they turn on their computer. You could, but you won’t.
How to Have a Five-way Phone CallJan 21, 2008
Three-way phone calls are a thing of the past. In fact, three-way phone calls are so ancient, it’s probably something dinosaurs would have done, if phones had been invented that is, and if dinosaurs could talk, and if a communications infrastructure had been in place. But that is besides the point! which is, dinosaurs are really old, and so are three-way phone conversations.
Five-way telephone conversations are the wave of the future, and it is easier than you might have expected. Let me share with you how I was able to place my own five-way telephone call, and how you can have five-way calls yourself!
First, you need to have two telephone lines. Now before you go clicking that BACK button, please hear me out. Having two phone lines is not as expensive as it used to be. In fact, it might even be cheaper than your single phone line now. Personally, I use ViaTalk, a broadband phone company that routes all calls through the internet. It costs me less than $20 a month and I get two, real phone lines, with real phones. ViaTalk is not the only broadband phone company to offer inexpensive, dual phone lines; you might prefer getting two lines from the local telephone company, but either way, you will need two lines.
Second, you will need a two-line telephone with conferencing capabilities. I am using a two-line Uniden TRU9566 cordless phone, but any telephone capable of handling two simultaneous lines and has the conferencing feature can make five-way phone calls.
This is how it works. You use line one to call your first victim - I mean friend or family member. Then, press the flash key to get a dial tone, just like what you would do to make a three-way call. When the phone starts to ring your second call, press the flash key again and you will now be connected with your first and second calls. At this point, you are on a three-way call, but unless you want to become extinct like the dinosaurs, you will need to do just a few things more.
Let your two callers know that you are going to leave them for just a moment. You will need to press the “Line 2″ button to get a dial tone on your second phone line. Don’t worry, your first two calls will be able to talk to each other while you are on line two. Now, dial the number for your third call, then when you have them on the phone, press flash, and dial the number for your fourth call. When it starts to ring, press the flash button to bring the third and fourth calls together. Now you are in a three-way call with your third and fourth calls.
Now for the grand finale! Press the conference button on your phone to bring both lines one and two together. You will now be connected with calls one, two, three, and four, all in the same conversation. You make the fifth person in the five-way call, and now you won’t end up in a museum of natural history! Congratulations!
When I made my first five-way call, I called my mother, grandmother, brother, and cousin. Just for fun, you might want to try it with your best friend, your sister, her best friend, your boyfriend, and your boyfriend’s secret girlfriend! Let the fun begin!
Visit my websiteJan 21, 2008
If you want to know about Cruddy Buddy, then visit my website: http://varpness.com