Friday, April 11, 2014

There are too many clicks required to play this Xbox game.

I've been sick lately, and so I've allowed myself to play some computer games. This is something I try not to do too much, but because I've been sick, and because I've recently read about the cognitive benefits of playing first-person shooter games, I've been playing Half Life 2. I know, I'm several years late. I'm having a lot of fun.

However, this is my rant blog, and I have to rant about how long it takes me to actually get playing the game. I think I'm spoiled on my iPad, with which I can start playing a game in about two or three clicks. In contrast, here is what I have to do on my Xbox to play Half Life 2:

  1. Turn the Xbox 360 on.
  2. Turn the television on.
  3. Sign in to Xbox live.
  4. Select that I want to play the game (as opposed to watch movies or whatever.)
  5. Select from the Orange Box menu that I want to play Half Life 2 and not Portal or whatever.
  6. Click down to "load game." (The default is "new game." Why? How often do people want to start a new game compared to loading one they're working on?)
  7. Select "load game."
  8. I get prompted "Would you like to select a storage device?" This is for where my saved game is located. Note that I'm not actually selecting the storage device, just affirming that I want to.
  9. Click "hard drive" as my storage device.
  10. Select the save game.

Then I'm finally playing. It takes over a minute. I know, there are greater problems in this world, but geez, it really seems like this takes too long.


Pictured: Killing Antlions in Half Life 2. From Wikipedia.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Problem With Conferences

A scholarly conference typically consists of a bunch of talks, punctuated by coffee breaks. In these talks, people sit and listen to someone give a presentation, and then ask a few questions. Then we go on to the next talk. I love conferences for networking reasons, but I really don't like the talks, and I try not to go to them. I think Glouberman puts it well in his interesting book The Chairs Are Where the People Go (2011, kindle location 2013).

"If you want to read this person’s paper, you can read it on the Internet. This structure doesn’t just ignore the existence of the Internet, it ignores the existence of the printing press. It’s a medieval idea about how information should be disseminated—to imagine that if you want to know what someone thinks, you have to go sit in a room with them while they read out loud to you their thoughts...Finding out what someone has to say in their paper isn’t a reason to travel across the country and stay in a hotel room. A reason to travel across the country is to have conversations with people and actually form human relationships."

I endorse this point of view.

Now there are two kinds of conferences: small ones, which only have a "single track," and conferences in which multiple talks are happening once: multi-track conferences. Multi-track conferences are not so bad, because you don't have to go to a talk all the time. You can hang out by the coffee and meet people.

But I really don't like single track conferences. Here's what usually happens. A talk goes long, and the person in charge of keeping the talk on track is just another researcher. In other words, someone with feelings. If a talk goes long, or the questions go long, then they often let it slide.

Then the next talk is late. Then when the coffee break comes, the only reason to have the conference at all, somebody says they're cutting it short because the talks ran long.

So you're out there with your coffee getting into a great discussion with someone. Then somebody comes out and tries to hustle everyone back inside because the next talk is starting. I usually try to hang back, but end up being all alone. I sigh and go into the talk.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two-Second Clips on DVDs

I imagine that people who create the DVD interfaces for movies are frustrated artists who just want to do a good job. One of the things they do is they set little 2 second or so clips from the movie to play after you select something from the main menu. So if you go special features, or something, it will play you a little exciting clip from the movie, then get to business.

It's especially stupid when you just want to play the movie. You click play, and you want to see the movie from the beginning. But what it does is it shows you a two second clip from the movie you're just about to watch. Who on earth would appreciate this?

It's especially annoying because it assumes that you've already seen the movie and would appreciate the clip for nostalgic reasons. I hope that's what they intend, because if they don't intend that, then I assume they want to spoil that exciting part of the movie for us. Annoying!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Improperly Worn Bike Helmet On Bike Share Ad

Mandatory helmet laws are terrible for bike share programs*, and it's easy to see why. What are you going to do, buy a $40 helmet and carry it around in case you want to rent a bike?

Thankfully Ottawa has a great bike share program and no helmet laws (for adults). However the city wants to give the impression that they think you should wear a helmet, so how do they advertise bike shares with photographs? Most I've seen find the clever but still kind of silly solution of showing the person standing next to the bicycle without a helmet-- shopping at an outdoor market, for instance.

I guess they finally decided they needed an ad with someone actually riding the bike. Here is what we get.

Yup. A helmet. So silly. I love the bike share, partially because it gets people on bikes again, and when they see how fun it is they end up buying one. But with all the bike share riders I've seen over the past few years, only one was wearing a helmet. This is great-- helmets increase head injury because of risk compensation.

But here's the kicker-- she's not even wearing her helmet correctly. Look closely...

The helmet should be tightly buckled around your chin. Why? To keep it from coming off of your head when you go flying through the air. Did I need to say that? Apparently I did, because I see people riding around all the time with their helmets either loosely buckled or not buckled at all.


* I can't find any empirical evidence for or against this. There is only reason and anecdotes, unfortunately.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hey DJ. I'm Trying To Talk Here.

Disclaimer: I adore DJed music. I listen to them on soundcloud. At a concert or a club, I vastly prefer DJs to live bands. I own several CDs that are mixes made by hip hop and EDM DJs. Anyway, on with the rant...

Once I was at a birthday party with a DJ. We were trying to talk to each other, but had to shout over the volume of the music the DJ was spinning. One of the people I was talking to was also a DJ. I asked him if he thought it was too loud.

"If I was the DJ I wouldn't think so," he said.

Loud music is fun when music is the focus of the event. The problem is that no matter what the event, the DJ tends to act like their music is what everybody's there for.

I was at an event recently that was clearly for networking with other people. The music was so loud that my voice was hurting after about an hour. I was probably the only non-Canadian in the room, so I figured nobody else was going to say anything...

"Hi. I really like the music."

The DJ smiled. "Thanks!"

"But it's too loud. Would you turn it down? We're trying to talk here."

He wasn't smiling so much after that. Sorry, dude. But

Your music is not more important that my conversation.

The event this was a part of lasted several days. There was an after-party at a restaurant. Guess what they had there to make it special? A DJ! And guess who was playing the music too loudly? I just walked out.

"You're leaving?" the organizer said as I passed her.

"Yes, it's way too loud in there. We can't talk."

"I'll ask him to turn it down."

And he did. But then the volume crept back up again. I figured that DJs have some number of decibels that they like, and every time they love the song they're playing, they inch the volume up toward that sweet spot. This is even more of a problem because the DJs, unlike you and me, sometimes have musician-quality noise-reduction earplugs. To protect their hearing, of course.

This time I complained to the DJ. Turns out the sound engineer at the restaurant kept turning it up on them. Sigh.

I left. Angry at DJs. Again.

The final party of the event had a DJ. This time the music wasn't  too loud! I figured I'd be fair and pay them a compliment for it. Turns out it was the DJ from the first night. He pretty clearly was not happy to see me, and my compliment didn't go over well. I guess a DJ could take that compliment as "I like what you're doing because it's easier to ignore."

But I'm trying to network here.


Pictured: A DJ, probably disturbing people's reading at a library.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Reselling Bad Product After Returns: Chumleigh's

I love the store Chumleighs, which sells used games and movies for great prices. A few months ago I was thrilled to find a Playstation 2 game I'd been looking for for a long time: Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, which had been very well reviewed.

Unfortunately, the game did not work. I cleaned it and tried several times, to no avail. I planned to bring it back. And even though I had no reason to suspect Chumleighs of any foul play, just to make sure I never bought that particular disc again I put a tiny dot of ink on the case insert in a place I would remember later.  They gave me my money back.

Just today I was browsing, and there was the Hulk game. With the same dot. I told the clerk that I'd returned this game and was disappointed that it was back on the shelf. She said that it might be a different copy, and I told her about the dot. She took the game to the back, and discussed something with somebody, and then put it back on the shelf, right in front of me.

For shame!

Pictured: Graffiti. From Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, October 23, 2010

iPhone contacts

I recently got an iPhone 4 and sometimes I miss my Android dream.

I moved to the android from a Palm Treo. I found a program that would put my hundreds of contacts into google contacts. The only problem was that it gave "Buro" for the type of phone number (rather than, say, "home.") Whatever.

But now when I synch my iPhone with google contacts, it decides to not synch any numbers that are buro. Rather than placing it in some "unknown" or "other" category, I just can't see the number. This renders most of my contacts on the iphone useless.

So now I'm faced with going through my contacts on google contacts and changing buro to office.

If you bore me on the phone, that's what I'll be doing.