Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Children - Dulce and Jose Francisco

My children continue to be a great joy; I never get tired of having kids in my lap or next to me. One night before Christmas I had talked with Dulce, my 7yo, about the fact that there were no monsters in the dark in her room. My 4yo, Alejandrita (alay-hon-dree-tah), chimed in saying "Dulce, the only tings in our room are da tings in our room." and she proceeded to list every item in the room, so Dulce said she knew everything that was in the room. I said "So, if you know everything that is in the room, you know what's not in the room, like Clyde the Monster." which gave the little and oldest (9yo) girl a chuckle. Dulce whimpered as she went to bed, crying softly, feeling ashamed, so as usual I went to give her a kiss and a hug in the dark room before I left, and I bumped my elbow on her wooden bunk bed frame as I came to her. It didn't make me yelp, just an annoyance to me but she immediately halted her crying, spoke up and said "Are you okay?"

I told her "Dulce, here you are crying because you feel bad that you're scared and your sisters aren't, and I bump myself and you ask me if I'm okay?" So instead of seeing her off, I stayed with her until she fell asleep as a reward.

My son, Jose Francisco, on the other hand, gets his rewards for exhibiting his Mayan and Spaniard ancestry, or his Latin blood. Every time he falls but gets up without a fuss, even if he now has a rosy bump on his head, my wife, my daughters, all know to clap for him and encourage him.

He likes to give me "Klingon head butts" as I call them. One day I was playing with him and he dropped a soldier, so we both went to pick it up and hit our heads. I'd moved quickly so it actually stung, but I laughed because that's what I do when Jose or I hurt ourselves, and so he laughed and wanted to do it again. So we did, and we did it again, and again, each time I'd deliver a bit harder of a thump, or try to change what part of my skull hit his, and finally dad had enough and I rubbed my head and shook my hand at him "that's enough".

He gave me this odd smirk when I did that. Then Dulce (my "princess," my sensitive daughter) came into the room and, being a sadistic Papa, I called her over for a kiss. She quickly took the opportunity and moved her head close to mine, right in front of Jose Francisco, who smiled and lobbed his head forward and *smack* Dulce exclaimed "OW!" which she does for any amount of pain, and Jose and I laughed, and I hugged Dulce and apologized. She chuckled too after she was in my arms.

Jose Francisco still likes to do the head-butting routine every once in a while and for a time I was completely confounded by it - why was it fun? I was never like that as a child. Pain was endured but not sought out. I got back on horses but I didn't like the fall. Then I realized: the same reason he gave me that smirk when I quit - any challenge to Jose Francisco, any test he can try to overcome, is desirable to him. When I rubbed my head and shook my hand at him, it was a signal he'd withstood the test.

Mom from Mexico, when I asked her about it, having not told her of my own conclusions, said that all of her seven sons did that -- it's something Latin baby boys do, sometimes when they're older too. Proving their worth, she said, is in their blood.

I'd imagine boys from any good stock are much the same.

Wiiiiiiiiiii - Zelda Twilight Princess

Okay so Christmas was great, as usual. My children are wonderful.

The Wii isn't the biggest item, but it's certainly racked up some time (which I can track thanks to the Wii's play-session by play-session accounting of time spent on every game every day, with a grand total).

Maria de Guadalupe got Zelda: Twilight Princess last week. Since I had the week before Christmas off, I wanted to have a chance to play it too. Honestly she loves the game more than I do, and that is because everything is new to her. Much of Zelda: Twilight Princess reminds me of Ocarina of Time. True, there are great new puzzles, far better graphics (from the N64 editions of Zelda, and Wind Waker, which didn't jive with this artist, strangely), but...

But the music horrendous. I have not heard one sample that doesn't sound either bad, involves a 10 second loop (or less, no joke), or like a 10 year old MIDI. I'm sorry, but MIDI technology isn't - that's a leap into anachronism.

Similarly, many of the sound effects are grating. You only hear your sword through the Wii Remote, whose speaker is better designed as an attention-getter, or to echo the sound from the game as in WiiSports, where you'll hear the Tennis Racket hit from your TV speakers and the Wiimote. The horse whinnies every time you spur her, every fucking time, and it's the same sample played either at a higher or lower octave.

Some of the puzzles are timed, which I hate with a passion - let me take time figuring them out, not running the same gauntlet 10 times trying not to fall into lava or reach the door after it's closed - again.

Lastly, Hyrule Field was a HUGE dissappointment after Shadow of the Colossus. I wanted something inspiring, something with huge chasms and grand vistas. Nope. None of that. The game fairly faithfully calls up the terrain layout of the N64 Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and two console generations later, it's just not much to look at or do but race around one Epona (your horse) and run over bad guys for fun.

All that said, I am still playing it, and as my friend Kevin likes to point out, I often complain most about the games I like, because the ones I don't like I complain once and then never pick them up again.

Long live All American Computers, or rather, Kyle Felstein

All American Computers is gone, and with it, my warranty, but hopefully not Kyle's house, the owner of AAC.

My hat is off to the man who had a great company, a great product, great customer service, and knowledge so deep you couldn't shove a spear all the way through it.

I hope he does better in the future, and that his wife supports him.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wii Want to Play

My WiiSports outing and playing Zelda: Twilight Princess
My lovely Latina says I'm an open book. WiiSports, perhaps because I always have my children to play with, has been incredible for me. Yesterday my daughters let me borrow their Wii so Papa could take it to some friends' house. They had two computers, a PS2, (I brought my PS2 games as well) and the Wii.

We (myself, Christian & Jay) got onto WiiSports Bowling and Christian's teenage sister, Jossie, dominated us. All the guys had played bowling before, but the newb schooled us. She had the most spastic moves that ended up in strikes. Really it was because somehow she was curving the ball, but it only started to curve at the last possible second, right before drilling the pins. How she did that she didn't know, and we couldn't replicate it. A grudge match didn't help, because she still won 2nd place out of 4.

We then played some Tennis and Baseball. Jay figured out that the time to strike a ball was about two seconds, after which I was able to use my sense of timing (I remember beating teenagers on the Atari 2600 playing "Target" when I was 6 years old) which hasn't played into my success in videogames in, oh, 15 years (mattered, but not game-busting importance), suddenly I was the only one batting balls into the field or netting 3 home runs.

Then Christian fired up his copy of Zelda, even though he doesn't have his own Wii yet, and Jossie and Jay quickly went to the computers and played World of Warcraft and I tried to stay awake, but literally fell asleep (I'd tried to camp with them the night before for Christian's Wii but the store managers told us at 2AM that there were no Wiis - I've had friends who work at Best Buy/Worst Buy, I know they sell to their staff and pretend not to, so my guess is the tip was correct, they just didn't know the Wiis were "already accounted for").

Zelda is, of course, immaculate. The attention to detail in this game is incredible. Yes, it's got some small start areas and small areas with limited mobility like Fable. Yes, Oblivion's Radiant AI kills Zelda's NPCs. But when you see the cute pregnant girl holding her belly and breathing differently after a walk, you think "My God, that's actually what my wife did when she was pregnant." The game flowed beautifully and shined. I can see why it gets great reviews - it's not all nostalgia.

We disliked that you have to shake the Nunchuck left and right to do a swing attack, when we all wanted to wave the Wiimote around, but whatever. It was not a party game; Zelda is the Wii game for folks who have no friends living with them, and see their friends on weekends. Unlike the Nintendo President Iwata said, it's not a game folks will stick around and watch either. I would, if I wasn't so tired at the time, but I'm abnormal.

When we started playing Tennis again, Jay, who almost got a college scholarship playing Tennis, but wanted to leave Puerto Rico for the U.S. instead, couldn't believe he couldn't beat me. Everyone wanted to play me, and after five games my right arm started to give out. I got a break and played two more and then it was time to go home.

At home I played against my 9yo daughter, Maria, who enjoys competition with me. She's my tiger - we play wrestle, play fight (she knows about hooking out eyeballs) whereas my 2nd daughter, Dulce Maria (Sweet Maria), is a tender sensitive girl who yelps at any mild pain. Every child is different, and you can guess which one cuddles dad when he's sick, so they all have their strengths. Anyway...

Maria couldn't beat me at tennis anymore. She'd beaten me twice, but now I was impossible. Far from disheartened, she just wanted to know what she should do to learn to beat me again, so I told her to play the computer more often than her sisters, and to make a new Mii to start her score over because the computer (seeing her score), was owning her little sisters when they played together against the AI.

I can say that the Wii is the most fun I have had with a game console since my Nintendo Entertainment System. Remember when you'd get together with your friends and play NES games all evening? All day was a bit much for my outdoorsy self but all evening was fair game.

I bought an XBOX in Christmas of 2004 and got four controllers and as many four-player non-sports games as I could, since most of my friends aren't into football, soccer, etcetera. That left us with Gauntlet clones like the Dungeons & Dragons romp. After the initial party bash, there was no other. When my friends came over they were more interested in computer games.

Since my kids have gotten their Wii, plenty of friends of mine have come by more than once to play it again, all in a two week period, not two year.

The gamepad is dead. Finally. Nintendo brought it into the world, and it's taking it out as well.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

PS3: The Unready; Wii: the Impressive; XBOX 360: the Entrenched

My comments are in green. The source articles are linked below - I strongly recommend reading each fully, as Mr. Bramwell is articulate and insightful.

Part one: the PS3
Part two: the Wii and the XBOX 360
By Tom Bramwell, deputy editor of

From Part One...
What I've discovered since I've had both consoles [Wii, PS3], though, is quite interesting. In a nutshell, Sony's new PlayStation isn't finished, and Nintendo's Wii isn't just a fascinating prospect - it's already impressive."

The write-up of the PS3 tells me much of what I expect: The PS3 is unready, unfinished and slap-shodded together (that's shoeing horses in a poor manner). From its menu system to its online abilities to the games available and the SixAxis controller.

From Part Two...
"...Sony's biggest problem at the moment is that it's lost the PR battle so comprehensively it can seldom open its mouth to do anything other than change foot."

Based on Sony's failure to match any release estimate, and a host full of other things they've said that haven't panned out. This made me laugh.

"Nintendo's is the "better" of the two launches in virtually every respect, with Sony's an unfinished symphony, but both companies' successes in the next five years will be determined by factors inconceivable in November 2006."

This speaks the truth. Not only does the Wii's success balance on 3rd party support, timing and innovation of the games delivered matter equally. If 3rd party developers do nothing but repackage old games and deliver them up with Wiimote & Nunchuck controls, it might float the Wii but it won't be realizing its potential. Making games that, like those on the dual-screened NDS, are created from the ground up to utilize the controls is what will make the Wii what it was meant to be. Failure to deliver either of these options in a timely fashion could stunt the Wii's growth, never to recover.

While some miracle might help Sony, I'd place no bets and not stock with that.

"Huge industry figures like EA's Larry Probst consistently pour praise and a demand to keep faith on the PS3, whilst complimenting the Wii's imaginative approach and saluting Microsoft's endeavors - but this is more than just hedging bets, it's a long-view that incorporates a lot of difficult variables."

Larry Probst, like many EA reps, is an out-right liar. Expect EA's real truth to be hidden behind their actions. EA has bought a development company and made it their Wii development branch. The amount of games they release for the PS3 and Wii is what will really indicate their beliefs - which could boil down to "I hope we don't lose much money" or be as grandiose as "Lets cash in before other people jump on the bandwagon." My bets are EA's a dollar gripping Scrooge.

That said, lack of EA support has spelled death for consoles in the past (Dreamcast), so the fact that they are developing for the Wii and PS3 is good news.

"How will the expensive PS3 do in the southern regions of Europe where PS2's low price has endeared it, but even the Core System model of the Xbox 360 has struggled? Will Nintendo's fashionable new manifesto for gaming translate to genuine third-party growth and shared commercial success, or will this be another Nintendo console that - for all its progressive tendencies - lives or dies by the games that come out of Kyoto? And will Microsoft's advertising blitzkrieg and successive exclusive winters prove as significant as the Redmond giant imagines?

None of these questions can be answered yet. But in this writer's estimation, what we can say now is that while some things may have changed, most things are still the same. Microsoft is as loud and imposing as ever. Nintendo is convincingly in control of and capable of expanding its own business, but not necessarily anyone else's. And although Sony has been weakened by its own hubris, it's still impossible to write off the PS3 until we've seen what it really has to offer."

The Wii has already succeeded at its purpose: to bring about a small videogame revolution. Gone are the days of archaic gamepads and with it, ignoring the casual gamer. Whether Microsoft slams Nintendo with it's own answer to N's big innovation in 5 years remains to be seen, but I'd find likely.

The PS3, on the other hand, seems set up to fail. I only hope that Blu-Ray wins over HD, not because I want either, but because the former is the better standard overall.

"In other words, the events of the last few weeks may have huge consequences, but it won't be until the next few months have passed that the picture will become in any way clear."

As far as "who wins" or "who makes money" this is true.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wii vs. PS3: From the Voice of Reality Hurts

This is just a stellar article that shows non-avid gamer (being gamer and non-gamer) reactions to one writer's Wii and PS3:

Essentially he affirms my feelings (I'm more thinking than feeling so those are hard for me to put to words) that I've had playing the PS3 at Worst Buy (Best Buy) and my daughters' Wii at home.

The PS3 is truly cool, but substantially the same. It just doesn't offer much. So my dirt-bike can break apart into a thousand pieces, the drive chain and spokes and engine... that's neat. The SixAxis control scheme is far too sensative (which means using the thumbstick was better, and I tried doggedly for 15 minutes to like SixAxis).

On the other hand, pick up a Wiimote and take a swing at a tennis ball and you're there.

Wii got it right on the fun & price departments. There's just not much else to say, but marvel at these gamers and non-gamers coming into contact with both of his consoles at the same time.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Wii - I gots me one!

Actually my kids have one now. Here's how it all happened, and here's what I think of the Wii.

As I wrote, "Using the WiiMotes really is as much fun as the online videos make it out to be. I'm a cynical die-hard gamer who has gamed since the Atari 2600 and I can tell you this little machine is like a whole new world to me. I love Golf. Golf! Why? Because every motion I make, heck even the stance I hold my arms at helps me to play the game better. "

One thing I will say is as soon as a Wii Golf game comes out, that is nothing but Golf and pays attention to how you hold your WiiMote in every regard, I'm buying it. And I hate Golf (in real life). Golf on WiiSports is great, but is out-shined by Bowling and Tennis, which are just great party games and truly enjoyable.

I managed to score TWO Wiis in my marathon waiting-in-line event, one for my good friend Billy and his two children.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nintendo's not dumb (for once)

[source article] The Wii is on track to sell all 4 MILLION units by December 31st of 2006, which is great news, but what gave me pause was how Reggie says they are handling the GameBoy Advance (GBA).

Microsoft brilliantly ceased production of XBOXes to try to "force" consumers onto the XBOX 360, ignoring the fact that new consoles don't make developers much money during their first year, and that the old systems continue to make money.

Sony, while still producing the PS2, doesn't talk about it much.

Nintendo, on the other hand, recognizes that the GBA still nets sales and makes money and has new games coming out for it. They're still pushing it.

That's paying attention to the bottom line, not market share. That's making money where it's to be made, not worrying about who newspapers say came in first place. That's smart.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This Guy is Stupid: What Wii Really Means

I read the three pages of this articulate, well cited article.

Quick Summary:
The tone of the article is a dismissive one. It attempts to show why the Wii's control scheme isn't really revolutionary (because, so far, we're really seeing the "same old games" with a new control scheme, forgetting the fact that the "same old" boxing game on a gamepad with buttons feels vastly different than the game with a Wiimote and Nunchuck) because evolutionary controls don't mean developers will make evolutionary games.

Well, duh. I don't expect 2001: A Space Odyssey from the new games, but I would prefer the new controllers to playing Fist Person Shooters with my thumbs.

Programmers should make New Games for Ancient Consoles?
Lastly, he says that the greatest asset the Wii has is its ability to play old gaming systems - such as the NES, Sega Genesis, and Turbo Grafix 16. Why? Because programmers could, in his mind, make games for little money and they would still sell because "These computers enthralled millions of people, people who were not merely biding their time waiting for better technology."

While that's true, given that the Wii has far less graphical fidelity than the XBOX 360 or PS3, it is not also true that flat, 2d graphics are more engaging to gamers than 3d ones. That was, after all, why games started moving in that direction in the first place.

The Personal Agenda that makes the whole article Wrong:
The last page really highlights that the author has a personal agenda: He loves old games. He loves nostalgia, and he would like to live in a world where programmers made new games for the 20+ year old Nintendo Entertainment System, and people bought played those games.

Given this, as accurate as he is about the notion that revolutionary controllers does not mean that revolutionary games will come out (it just makes it more likely, to a lesser extent as the onset of 3d gaming revolutionized games), the whole article is really a large, intelligent bend at an agenda the author has, and that's sad.

When good minds wrap themselves up in their feelings and then layer themselves in so much self-serving information as to believe themselves, when a few doses of the reality of how the world works tears it all down.

The Reality of the Author's Dream:
Wal-Mart has a great many "legacy style" game consoles in a controller that you can buy and put on your TV. Amazingly, my kids actually played these, but not very much. So while he's not entirely off his mark (folks can write simple games and people will play them) he's in the wrong market:

People who want games that simple will buy a $15 or $20 gamepad with a built-in console and a few games (that you can never add more to) and be happy, or put it on a shelf. People who buy a $250 or $400 or $600 console do NOT want these kinds of games, by in large, and their family members, having experienced what the Wii has to offer, probably won't care for the old push-button fests either, albeit the normal puzzle games may still apply.

Jose Francisco - the Luchador?

[General pictures, but not of Jose Francisco wrestling]

Jose Francisco loves to wrestle. It's not something I taught him, I think he just enjoys the feeling of grappling someone to the ground and getting on top of them. He has various ways he accomplishes this with his sisters. With the 4 year old Alejandrita, he likes to take one of her dolls and throw it on the floor. When she bends over to pick it up, he grabs her back and pushes her down and they start to wrestle. She's giggling the whole time.

With my 7yo, Dulce, he goes for her legs, which makes her get on her knees, and then he grabs her hair (which normally he never does), which gets her on her hands and knees, if not her side, and then he climbs on her.

Now Dulce is my sensative, skinny cuddle bunny, but I was still surprised when I heard her call me for help and found Jose Francisco had grappled one leg around one of her arms and the opposing arm around her leg, and she told me "I can't get Jose off of me..."

He's 19 months old. So I told her to tell him to get off without sounding like she was playing, which she did, and then I said commandingly "Jose! Escuchan tu hermana!" which means "listen to your sister" and he got off. Since then she's got safe words and thinks it's fun. Fun, for Dulce, is always knowing there's a way out.

Fun, for Jose Francisco, is proving that there isn't.

Outdoors he also likes to grab a fistfull of dirt and put it down their backs. I asked my 9yo, Maria, how he learned to pull open the back of their color and stuff dirt down their shirts, and she paused a while, and said "I taught him." The other thing he does is quickly points at Maria, who points at him, when my little girls look for whodunnit. Of course they know the truth — they were both in on it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wii Cannot Decide

Well I admit to being confused. I am a gamer and gaming things interest me. As much as I hate to admit it, I like how the Wii plays on video. But I'd also like to upgrade my old computer and make it a more capable gaming device to multiplay with my 9yo daughter.

Maria/Lupe, my eldest, wants a Wii. She says so because it's a casual game system that features controls you move around (not buttons you press - as much), supports four players (a magic number at our house) and doesn't cost a fortune (initially).

I told her that my friend Kevin advised I upgrade my old gaming rig (now my wife's PC, and Maria's multiplayer gaming platform) and she said "I don't mean to be rude, but Kevin thinks everyone enjoys what he does."

Actually he doesn't, but she's right that his advice is colored by that. I concede to his point: a PC can do loads of things. However, every time I come home and my baby boy feels left out, or my 2nd and 3rd daughter, I feel like a jerk every time I think about spending a few hundred dollars on something exactly one in four children can enjoy.

On the other hand, I hate consoles for their cyclical games and high-upkeep costs, and as a gamer things like graphics matter to me, not just visually but spacially. Now that I have experienced Operation Flashpoint and (more famous) Morrowind and Oblivion, I want more of these open games. Can the Wii's hardware deliver? If it's a toy for my kids (like their two GBA's) will it matter?

Wii are, as of yet, undecided. All that I know is a PS3 is just too expensive for too little gain.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nolan Bushnell's smart commentary on the PS3, Wii, and Gamers

Nolan Bushnell, Atari's founder, founder of Chuck E Cheese, both of which I despise in their current incarnations... is a "good idea" man. Like any idea man, he seems to move quickly after an idea's time has passed.

Here's the full interview.

I found his commentary on his new restaurant franchise "uWink" interesting, but y'all might be more enticed to read his thoughts on the PS3, the XBOX 360, the Wii, Sony's past successes, and Atari as it stands today.

I colored the parts that are most profound red.

Q: (About his restaurant chain that combines touchpad screens at every table with social games and ordering food, he touches on core history of videogames)

"I saw a very large and untapped market, which is the entrepreneur’s dream. There was no real venue for social games. Games got violent in the mid 1980s… that lost women. Then they got long-form and complex. That lost the casual gamer.

There’s always been this desire to play games. What you really want when you’re out and about is a social [experience] using games... [snip]"

Q: (About his thoughts on the game industry)

"I’m very curious and interested in the Nintendo Wii. I think it may expand the market beyond the hardcore [18- to 24-year old]. Xbox Live is interesting because it potentially becomes the platform for the living room."

Q: (About his thoughts on Atari)

"[Atari] really isn’t a part of today’s gaming world in any meaningful way. They lost the cachet of being a leading technology company in the games space."

Q: (His thoughts about the PlayStation 3)

"I think Sony shot themselves in the foot… there is a high probability [they] will fail. The price point is probably unsustainable. For years and years Sony has been a very difficult company to deal with from a developer standpoint. They could get away with their arrogance and capriciousness because they had an installed base. They have also historically had horrible software tools. You compare that to the Xbox 360 with really great authoring tools [and] additional revenue streams from Xbox live… a first party developer would be an idiot to develop for Sony first and not the 360. People don’t buy hardware, they buy software."

Q: (About the success of the PS2 and the PSX)

"It wasn’t anything brilliant that [Sony] did. With the PS and PS2 it was timing. They had the right pricing at the right time [and were] almost the accidental winner. It would not surprise me if a year from now they’ll be struggling to sell 1 million units. [Factoring in the PS3’s price], I think in the U.S. the number of early adopters you have is actually around 300,000."


Gaming hasn't just lost women (and found them again in games like "The Sims"), it's losing actual gamers who grow up - like me.

"Casual gamer" is such a maligned term because all American males seem to want to think that, at their core, they're really a manly man waiting to bust out of an unmanly body. Saying "Casual" is akin to saying "not serious" or "loser." Everyone loves a winner in America.

But somewhere, someone is going to find out that casual games, that is to say, games that don't require my twenty four years of experience to handle, is a lucrative area. We see it pop up with things like Tetris, sandbox games (Railroad Tycoon series, Rollercoaster Tycoon series, Sim City, etcetera) and -- perhaps -- the Wii.

The Wii is severely underpowered , so much so that I doubt "hardcore gamers" need apply. But "no loss" there as hardcore folks will probably own an XBOX 360 (if they don't already). The Wii could still be something else they pick up at its price-point, something Bushnell cited the inverse of with the PS3. But I have serious reservations as to its ability to satiate the hardcore gamer who, when he comes home, finds a videogame to play and sits down. I doubt the Wii will have enough titles to handle the load; from what I have seen, Red Steel will bomb and only the new Zelda game can hold down a hardcore gamer. No matter -- that's not what it's designed for.

Like Bushnell, I think Nintendo has struck upon an idea that is centered around "untapped consumers."

Bushnell thinks uWink will tap some hidden consumer group, folks who want food and fun in a more adult setting; that's great, but I think the Wii stands a better shot (link to a Japanese family trying out baseball).

Of course, no console or restaurant can withstand the might of the Personal Computer, but once again - that's hardcore.

So will the Wii be, as early Atari was, a stepping stone to get the rest of the population into games? There will always be more casual gamers, I think, and there are folks who just aren't us, which is to say, they will never be hardcore gamers. Whether or not I ever get one, my main hope is that the Wii's control scheme puts an end to the decades-old handheld gamepad (which is really a mini-version of an arcade desk with a stick and buttons that we suddenly found we liked to hold rather than place on the floor [source]), that twenty years from now, all games I play will involve motion, not my touch-typing skills or... thumbs.

Let's face it, we use our thumbs to grab things. They are not meant to be dexterous.

My points? I'm forcing myself to have those lately:

  1. Sony is stupid. The PS3 will fail.
  2. The Wii has the potential to rid me of my hated enemy: the thumbstick!
  3. There's a real market for unmanly men and women who play games sometimes but not all the time.
  4. Nolan Bushnell is fairly smart, and has insightful comments on these subjects:
    1. How we lost women gamers
    2. How we lost casual gamers
    3. Sony isn't as smart as they think they are
  5. Having a great family means you're not as compelled to log in those hardcore hours into games.
- David

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I love my PureXS!

I haven't been well motivated to post because I have my computer (see below) and we're in the middle of Election season. But I'm happy and doing well.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Friday, September 15, 2006

PureXS Arrival Photographs

It's here!

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers


Maria (my lovely lady) just called and told me something has arrived. Baxworld's shipping information still doesn't show it but who cares! I'm on my way home for lunch. So sad we'll be so soon to part. I probably won't open it so I can open it with my cousin Paul tonight.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Urban Dead

The dead rise to consume the living?

Okay, this is my kind of MMO - quick, easy, appealing, and I have yet to meet the mighty grind beast. It's web-based, which is to say it's story-driven, which is to say "it's mostly just text."

Once you die as a human, you come back as a zombie (duh). As a zombie, you have to gain separate XP to learn to make sounds, and once you can, you can use a new language (well, heavily based on English). It's fascinating, Captain. There's a Lexicon of words as well.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Maria's 19" Widescreen LCD arrives!

I'll post pictures tonight. It's a tad bright, so I turned the brightness down to 5/100 instead of the default 100/100 and that seemed to work. It is not a $400 Dell LCD but for the price ($200) it's large, crystal clear and great. I can see that a Graphic Designer would hate this LCD because it just can't do what the more expensive LCD's can with color but then - it's not an expensive LCD!

Good buy. More on that later.

PureXS arrives in ORLANDO, Florida

See the tracking information page.

Yes, it's true! My PureXS is in Orlando, FL. I doubt it will arrive at my place today, which is sad.

Ironically, my PureXS will be closer to my friend Chris Brown, in Kissimmee, who is South of me and farther away from its origin (Indiana) than I am. Maybe the plane flew over Alachua County or the City of Gainesville before landing there... it MUST have come by plane to have such a wierd route.

I sent the guys this e-mail.

Since my cousin Paul is stuck at home guarding the house and tending the aging dog, Yogi, with his folks gone, I plan on taking my system over to his place and messing around there, getting stuff installed, going "Wow" and making "whooping" noises. I'll get to bed at a responsible time for Saturday, but I'm going to ask him if I can sleep over.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

PureXS to arrive in Atlanta tomorrow...

Shipping update (see my Google Page for complete info) Oh well. I suppose 10:30PM versus 9:37PM today is about the same to me as "ETA ATLANTA 0712/14" which I would guess is 7:12AM tomorrow? I have no idea. I can't imagine them guessing the minutes like that but there you go. Hopefully it will be here tomorrow evening.

Mmmm mmm can't wait. Sitting here doping around with Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. Glee. Yay. Bleh.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers


Concerning what a few friends have told me about OBLIVION: The Elder Scrolls IV, I found on a rant I made about multiplayer gaming that speaks true still. The topic then was Galactic Civilizations II, but it might as well be any well-made single-player experience...

"For years, I have thought that any game that could, should be multiplayer. It all started back with the original ZELDA on the old Nintendo. I recall thinking "If I could edit this game and create my own overworld and underworlds and watch my friends play, I'd never stop playing this game." I then thought "And if we could play together, each criss-crossing whatever screens we happen to be on independantly across the world, or working together in the same area, that would be cooler than is imaginable."

That was, what? 1987-1988? Nearly 20 years later - I have news. Playing with your friends is fun, but unlike when we were kids, and games were so simple an affair that all you needed was a second controller and a friend to invite over, we now have to pay $50 per game. Most of your friends probably don't own the same games, and even if they do, both of you wanting to play the same game at the same time is like errant asteroids finding planet Earth.

This is why Internet match-making is what it is, and let me tell you - "...those you encounter online, almost as a rule, are complete and utter cockmongers ." I've been in the 5th ranked guild out of 16,000 North American Guilds in Guild Wars. I was the Captain of the Monk team, 3rd in teir. I've been ranked 20th in Dawn of War's "2v2 players" list, fighting alongside my cousin Paul. I have proven that PC gamers who've been around since Castle Wolfenstein can, instantly, do as well as the 90th percentile in Halo 2 using a Lik-Sang keyboard/mouse adapter (all it took was learning where the gun drops were), and again in the PC port of Splinter Cell: the one where you only have versus mode.

The only place you can go from the top -- is down. And quite often, getting there is a struggle more than an adrenaline rush -- after over 10 years of competative gaming, I really don't give a flying fuck anymore. There's always a new game and ever-younger than you pricks who think that, somehow, dominating other people online is akin to kicking other cave-men in the jaw and breeding with the women while they lie there and bleed. It's a primordal attitude that reveals itself eventually for what it is.

No one plays together as a team. Axe ZELDA with your friends, and you are left with ZELDA, the Editor. "

PureXS Shipping Update 1

"2148/13" my PureXS is arriving in Atlanta sooner than 10:30PM? The time changed.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers


The copy/paste won't fit here so check my Google Page on my PureXS shipping!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Computer Ships Today, to arrive Friday!

David with AAC called me (called my house first and got my 6yo) at work and said the shipping price comes to a whopping $100.89 (ouch - that's over half the cost of Maria's new 19" widescreen LCD) and will arrive no later than Friday at 5pm.

So now all I have to do is... WAIT MORE.

Ooh and Kyle just called me and is going to sign my PureXS with his scrawl and printed name! Oboy! He says the guy who is going to take it is due any minute so he has to sign it and box it up right now. Fun fun!

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

"All Circuits are Busy Now" - I can't reach AAC

I can't reach All American Computers by phone. I get the message "All Circuits are Busy Now" in a woman's nasal tone from the phone company. The call never actually gets to them. If they've got major phone problems up there in Indiana they might not be able to reach me, either. Curse the phone conglomorates!

I am going insane. They need me to give them Maria's credit card information so they can charge me shipping so they can ship the PureXS so it can arrive in time for Saturday the 16th, when my big, bad LAN Party is, so the guys and I can have fun so I don't have to call them all and say "Sorry no party" after four weeks of planning. Aaaah!

I'm okay, I'm okay.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Friday, September 08, 2006

I called All American Computers

The LAN Party is a Go
The bottom line is good: My PC will be with me in time for the LAN Party on Saturday, September 16th!

Kyle says if the LIAN LI side-panel doesn't arrive by Tuesday he'll ship the case with the default panel and ship the clear side-panel later.

The RAM issue hasn't been resolved, it's still running at 677MHz, however, a BIOS revision will probably fix that later, and as he put it "The motherboard is built to have RAM at this speed. When folks overclock their RAM they can actually mess up their timings and slow their system down. I don't think that would happen here but the point is the benefit is negligible and probably not worth waiting for (with an update down the road)."

So I'm a stickler and I want that 800MHz - at the very least I want to try it out and see my 3dMark 2006 scores to check for what difference it makes - but I'm content to do that on my own and not let it hold up my system any longer.

One More Weekend with Mrs. Chop-Fest
I guess I have one more weekend with Clara, my 4yo gaming rig, humdrumming around, trying to find games made between 2001-2003 that I might actually like to play. I'm so sick of low-frame rates.

I tried Star Wars: Empire at War, which is actually a fun little RTS due to its "conquer the galaxy" mode where you collect planets, have them build stuff and send those fleets places to invade other planets. Super keen. As an RTS it's very bland, standard "overwhelm the enemy" and "watch out for air power" when on the ground, instead of space. Anyway, it was running all right on Clara, until I had a lot of planets pumping out stuff, and then just the UNIVERSE map was slow, never mind once I got big fleets of ships going, even with a unit cap. Talk about stupid! So I stopped playing it.

Future Gaming
I got Call of Juarez but I can't play it on Clara - so I'll have to wait for my PureXS, and when I get that I'm pretty sure all I'll be doing is playing Oblivion, so I'm not sure why I got it. It looked Western.

I also want to try out X3, Rise of Legends, F.E.A.R. multiplayer and... a bunch of other stuff.

In the mean time, I have the Soundtrack to Oblivion (awards), and I listen to that almost daily at work. I dream not of Oblivion, but of Draco, Shila and the lands of the Ancient Dragon, not dissimilar in setting and genre.

Hearing my Baby Humm...
I had a very odd sensation while on the phone with Kyle. He asked me to listen and then he said "I'm turning on your (PureXS)." I heard the switch and then her jump to life, all fans ablaze. One immediately died down a bit, and the other waited longer - X1900's in Crossfire, only one will immediately slow down, the other waits for Windows to post back to it. I heard her quiet way down once Windows was at the login prompt.

It struck that cord in me, not nearly as sharply, as when I've seen my children in ultrasounds, or heard them thumping and felt them moving about. It was oddly surreal, and I was kind of disappointed in myself for feeling that way - but there it is. Granted, my children made me cry with joy when hearing them - this did not. But I did feel the pangs. It struck the same cord.

Wierd, huh? He was just trying to demonstrate the minor differences between the X1950's and the X1900's (in Crossfire, both X1950's slow down immediately, whoopdiedoo).

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers


I have no more pictures to lavish upon my Internet Shrine to my future PureXS, and now I'm worried that I will have to cancel the Sept. 16th Saturday LAN Party.

Kyle at All American Computers is still working on the RAM issue and waiting for the side-panel from LIAN LI, the case manufacturer. I'll call him after lunch today.

Why World of Warcraft is Successful

Rob Pardo's keynote speech gives all the management details that shows how they thought up and executed WoW's production. Great read.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

David Dies, Keeps on Working

I... unlive! Election Day Tuesday I was up from 5AM until 2:30AM Wednesday, at work from 6am to 2am. I got 4.5 hours of sleep and I'm back in at work at 8:30am.

The image is some random guy dressed up, not me. I don't wear glasses and have a 'stach and beard growing. Well, what suffices for manly hair growth on my nubile face.

I called Kyle at AAC and everything is coming together. He's a bit pissed because a case didn't arrive for another customer he's working on (a computer for Microsoft) but was pleasant with me. He's also tired because he was up late as well. Running your own business has got to take a lot out of you.

Poor Maria Alejandra tried to wait up for me but feel asleep at 1am. My poor lovely, loving little Mexican girl. She's so devoted, so loyal.

Friday, September 01, 2006

David's PureXS - Photograph!

What's to say? It looks freaking awesome! (click to enlarge)
Side panel and Seagate Barracuda 320GB's are the last parts Kyle & company are waiting for.

See it on my Google Page

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Benchmarks comparison with AMD versus Conroe in Crossfire

These two benchmarks from GotFrag disturb me:

Billy's Core 2 Duo "Conroe" E6700 with a 975XBX motherboard, 2GB OCZ DDR2 RAM and a single X1900 XTX ATI videocard gets better frame rates than the E6800 listed here on ultra high quality. True, his max FPS was less, and his average was 53, not 57 (but then, he wasn't doing the exact same things) but his minimum was 38! Not 18!

I took one look at this and I thought "This is because of Nvidia gayness." and I was right. Nvidia Videocards are behind this travesty of justice, this misuse of CPU powerhouses.

Bah! I spit in their general direction.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Deadwood: Suckage

I saw the last episode of Season 3 (series got canned by HBO), and it totally fucking sucked, pardon my French.

"It told us so much about each of the characters."

It contradicted everything that the characters have established. I'm not appealing for a bloodbath, but some preservation of the characters that we have all seen develop through the seasons, even if it was Bullock's use of his badge to thwart Hearst in some way. To see them all buckle tells us that it was all just an act. That they were nothing more than the "bullies" that Bullock lamented about to Hearst. What was this? The author's way of telling us he had us all fooled?

And more generally, when an author foretells of something within a story, and uses lots of devices to build to it, but then doesn't follow through with it, it's very reasonable for an audience to be unsatisfied. The author seems to have indulged a bit too much here for the audience's liking. The conclusion he deprived us of was the hook that kept us coming back, and we feel cheated."

This sums my feelings up. Seth didn't act like Seth, nor Al act like Al, and on down the line. Even Cy seems oddly out of character, although he's been erratic since he nearly died at the ending of the 2nd season.

Fucking stupid, I say, for all the reasons listed above. Limber dick cocksuckers, as the great Ellsworth said. It continues...

"To those people here that mistook people standing down to Hearst as being anticlimactic, what's happened here is that Deadwood has shown itself to be strong by showing itself to be united. "

Bullock loses the election. Ellsworth leaves town. Who knows what will happen to Charlie since Bullock loses. The Doc is dying. What's so united about this? Their futures are all left hanging. We have no idea of what happens next.

I don't even think it's historically accurate. Bullock was the sherrif of the town from it's inception. There is no mention of his defeat so shortly after being appointed sherrif. History places him as the sherrif there for quite a while and that he restored "Law and Order" in the town.

"It's about priority, and learning to adapt. And we see that in everyone's decisions, right down to Charlie accepting the tea instead of coffee. Hearst's departure is worth a fucking lot to everyone in the camp. And Hearst has seen how unpleasant it is for him to be there, the poor put-upon delusional cocksucker. It's win-fucking-win. Everyone's standing up to Hearst, saying "we know you have the power to destroy us but we aren't gonna suck your ass pretending we like you." But they misunderestimate him as much as he misunderestimated them when he showed up in the town. He'll still be a presence, but again, the camp will adapt."

And what exactly is attractive about a story where everyone gives into corrupt power and and conforms? They aren't standing up, to Hearst whatsoever. If you think that Charlie's and Seth's little speaches to Hearst were not pretending, you lend too much weight to hollow words.

Basically, the characters acted contrary not only to their established character:

  1. The impulsive, righteous Sheriff not only did nothing, but he didn't even object to an innocent whore being murdered in place of another, as demanded by the Big Bad Guy Hearst.
  2. The conniving bad guy allied with the good guys bends over for the Big Bad Guy Hearst and kills one of his own whores to placate him - and not even the right one. Supposedly, that was something nice he did - but I object. Even Al didn't think it was "fair."
  3. Alma sells her claim to Big Bad Guy Hearst because he had her sweet, noble old husband murdered. Nevermind Ellsworth would be thumping and thrashing in his grave at this.
  4. We had nearly every character in town gunning for Big Bad Guy Hearst and they fucking have him just stroll away with armed Pinkertons. He got all he wanted and everyone in town proved they were wussies, that everything the series had established was a lie.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My PureXS from All American Computers

See my Google Page / Shrine on this PC, complete with pictures, a link to every blog post, and thoughts.

  • CPU:
  • RAM:
  • CASE:
  • FANS:
    ATI 512MB X1900 XT PCI-E CARD
    1X-530 Logitech 5.1 Speaker set

Mmmmmm... E6700 with Crossfire...
I should have this next week.

I have a lot of friends who want to see this rig (7 of them). An old high-school buddy invited me to Kissimmee to see it! I can remember when his Silicon Graphics (SGI) Indigo 2 was incredible - saw bump-mapping in hardware on a then $20,000 SGI workstation, 8 copies of non-multithreaded Unix DOOM ran on it. Now even my old gaming rig outperforms it for video (but not rendering, I think).

I digress. That is normal.

Paul (cousin), Billy (the Pitbull), Brandon, Dennis, Chris (Kissimmee), Jock & Christian!

Monday, August 21, 2006

I'm being Stalked!

My good friend, Chris Brown, found me. Actually he already knew everything - he had seen, my Blog (which is linked from there) and Google Home Page (with pictures of me & mine).

Drastically cool to be back in contact with him.

Darn it, he lives all the way down in Kissimmee though.

Friday, August 11, 2006

My PC: What I'm about to order

This is what I plan to order later today from All American Computers.

E6700 (2667 C2)


2x DIMM 2GB 800MHZ



2x FAN 120MM RED


VID 512 X19XT





The soundcard isn't listed here because I'm not sure what I'm getting - Audigy SE (5.1, EAX, all hardware, but no extra features) or something juicier.

I also want a 2nd hard drive for RAID 0, but I'm not sure I can afford it, which also affects the soundcard.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Britney Spears - White Trash

What a wonderful example this girl puts on for the youthful daughters of America.

And her boyfriend, who is no mental giant himself, displays how much smarter he thinks he is than her in his voice. He must think he's real big to be able to talk down to an unarmed opponent who happens to be a celebrity.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Jose Francisco's Fear Response

Jose Francisco is my 15 month-old baby boy. [pictures]

Jose Francisco climbed up into the rocking chair, which was padded on the seat and back, and proceeded to rock it. Maria, my wife, heard the noise and turned just in time to see him roll the chair over backwards and BANG! the whole house heard the crack on the kitchen floor. Jose, who was now on his hands and knees on the back of the chair, immediately exclaimed "Oh!" and then growled at the chair, gripping it with his little hands and shaking it.

He was mad at it, probably for scaring him.

Curious, I tried a game. Jose Francisco came up to me whilst I was sitting on the couch and I watched him and suddenly shouted "AARH!" and reached as if to grab him painfully. He startled and then laughed at me.

My baby girls, when they were his age, would have cried instantly.

I did it again. He startled, and laughed. Before I could do it again, Jose Francisco said "ah!" at me and motioned his little hands at me. I pretended to be scared, and he laughed some more. This went on for 5 minutes until dad had gotten tired of the game.

A week later I was taking my daughters to bed, tucked them in and turned out the light. Jose Francisco stood at the doorway, the hallway lit only by the television in his mother's room (and mine). I lurked back inside slowly and moaned like a zombie. Jose Francisco followed and tried to see me.

I lunged at him and growled and Jose Francisco squealed in scared delight, turn and ran. We repeated this - each time I would descend deeper into the room and lure him farther, and if I could catch up to him I would tickle the small of his back with my fingernails, and he thought this was wonderful. Three times he fell and bonked his head on something, twice the bed, once the wall. He never cried, he'd just get back up and scramble out of the room, like that was the only thing he had time to worry about.

Then I'd creep back into the room, and moan, and he'd come in again. I'd moan longer, make him come in farther into the black room, and repeat the whole process.

I must admit, having grown up in an abusive household where I got to know the local Alachua County Sheriff Deputies who'd come to visit, I find myself fascinated with my son's fear response, and have a strong desire to let him explore his natural strengths in a controlled environment before he grows 4 (at which point, psychologically, our core personalities are set).

Well the other day I went to the bathroom and didn't bother to turn on the light. Jose Francisco loves to follow me into the bathroom because he wants to watch the toilet and have me help him wash his hands and brush his teeth. If I miss the hand washing he'll complain ("uhn uhhhn!") and try to close the door until I remember. With a Mexican mother and a father grown up on a ranch, he doesn't get his own way when it's bad, but when he's right - he's right.

Well this day he came into the pitch black unlit bathroom and had no idea I was there. He went straight for the counter and started trying to reach for something to grab. I got up and "AAARHH!" shouted at him.

"AH!" he exclaimed and then immediately yelled back at me "ARRH!" and his little body lunged forward with his arms up - obviously still terrified in the instant but his response lacked any thought to it.

I turned on the light and he saw me and gave me this look, like I had just betrayed him in some small way - the look he gives me when I pick him up because he asks, and then I realize he wants me to take me with him in the van and I can't, so I hand him off to his mother, whom he can't break free of as he can with his sisters. I apologized and held him for a bit. Then it was off to play.

"If you're going to make yourself available dad, I have something else I'd like to do."

I understood him, completely.

The last line of the Bushido Creed reads:
"I have no sword; I make No Mind my Sword."

I think of Jose Francisco's reaction and marvel at him. With proper training (I plan on introducing him to Jujitsu at 5) he'll have all the confidence he needs in life. He is 15 months old and he already growls at me if I admonish his sisters in front of him, or any other thing he feels protective about.

I wonder, what will he do when he's 18.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I want my E6700 Conroe 2.66GHz with 2GB RAM and an ATI X1900 XT custom built and loved by All American Computers / AAC Direct so badly.

It will have a clear side panel with lighted fans and, depending on how much cash I can save, maybe two hard drives running RAID 0 (striped).

My 21" Hitachi Perfect-Flat CRT has two VGA ports, and a button for each input on the front. When I want the Web, I will press a button on my monitor, juggle a keyboard and mouse (that's the only hard part) and I shall be satiated.

My gaming rig, while able to see what my wife's future PC (Clara, my 4 year-old gaming rig) has downloaded for her, will not have any shares of her own. Nay, other than authentic Microsoft Windows updates, she may not even know the sinful pleasures of a Web Browser (though, I'll still install Firefox).

Oblivion is already mine. Victor let me play it, and F.E.A.R., on his PC last Sunday. FEAR was cool, because the AI really try to flank you - run for cover, duck, shoot, and use teamwork. Victor said "You did all right" but to me, playing this AI was great. It was like Day of Defeat without all of the online assholes. These assholes had only one purpose in life: to work together and either die or force me to reload. Unfortunately, FEAR is linear, so the only thing there is to do is skulk about looking for where the next ambush area is. If you are careful enough, you get to be the ambusher.

I also have Rise of Legends as of today, which I may install on my aging PC.

Oblivion? What can I say about it? It's Oblivion. That's like saying - it's sex. What more can be said about sex? Other than at some level, we all want it. And Oblivion is like a happy marriage - you know it won't end, and it's there for you every single night, and you can't stop loving that. Kind of like - well okay! Enough about me.

I want my computer.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Friday, August 04, 2006

More on my conversation with Kyle with AAC Direct

This is part two of a blog post. See part one.

I quote Kyle, owner of AAC Direct, as best I can from memory. I am not Plato, and I do not have photographic/eidetic memory.

The purpose of this text is to show Kyle's enthusiasm for gaming PC's, his strategies and generally, why I liked what I was hearing.

PureXS versus LiquidXS:

The LiquidXS is what put them on the map on the Internet, near as I can tell. Each clear "see through" case is custom-built (not pre-fabricated) and laser-etched. Everything is water-cooled, and as Kyle said "No expense is spared (depending on the budget of the customer - Dave)." He went on to say "But while the LiquidXS makes a statement... the PureXS is about packing the best hardware we can into a case and giving our customers a PC that just works. We're interested in performance measurement per dollar. A system like the one you're ordering should be around 10,000 points on 3dMark2006. 2006! (his emphasis - Dave)"

Now I know that number is impressive, because I've read about a guy building a Quad SLI system using two power supplies, two Nvidia 7950 GX2's, everything watercooled, just to get that score.

Related to the 3dMark score, we got into a big discussion about Conroe technology, why he was packing an E6700 CPU instead of two X1900 XT's in my system (for true Crossfire, rather than Crossfire ready), and it boiled down to the fact that the CPU was more important than doubling up the videocards. "Without that CPU, you'll never realize the potential of Crossfire." Well, I'd see a difference, but he was right. Most people get that wrong.

Lights as Artwork:
I'm also getting a window side-panel and lighted fans. Kyle asked me what color I wanted, and I told him "I'm an artist. I like almost every color. And as an artist, I'm not going to tell another artist what to draw - you put together what looks good to you." He didn't get it at first, and I explained further "Artists are used to looking at things other people want to draw and finding the value in it. So when I get the computer, I'll think 'This is what AAC feels looks good for the parts they had to work with.' and I'll be happy. Why tell you what I think should be in it? (as far as lights & layout) I don't make computer art every day, you do."

He got it, and apparently it impressed him. He got all enthused about having the freedom to put the case together because he started talking about how a lot of customers demand this or that and - they have to put it in, but it's not a good idea in his mind. So I knew what he was getting at.

Cheaper Shops:
"Places like CyberPower will sell you a cheaper system, but they don't put in quality parts like we do (and they don't test their systems - Dave). In our LiquidXS systems, I use $20 solid steel switches - two of them. That's $40 - for switches. So that just goes to show what we put into a LiquidXS."

Horror Story:
He went on with a horror story, "I hate to tell you this before you place an order, but we had one client that wanted Quad SLI, and that is very hard to configure, works on only a few games and we really don't recommend it. But if the customer wants it... so anyway, we were using the (Nvidia 7800 series if memory serves - Dave) and they had a lot of problems. We built his system and tested it with our burn-in and it died. So we kept replacing parts. Eventually we got the system working, but it had graphical gliches in one of the games we tried. So we went through 5 sets of videocards - 10 cards, before we got it right. It took us much longer than anticipated, but when we shipped him the system, it ran every game we put on it without problems."

"Now, we could have just shipped him the PC as soon as it got working. Maybe he'd never play those games." But Kyle and his team apparently couldn't bring themselves to do that.

AAC Direct's Modus Operandi:
And that, in a nutshell, is Kyle's modus operandi. He talked to me about his business strategy a bit, namely "I think there is a place between the Falcon Northwest computers and the cheap gaming rigs of CyberPower. I want the PureXS to be that alternative to an overly costly system and a system that's (a roll of the dice)."

He understood the cost of materials, how much the silver, gold, and metals cost. The lead-free system compliancy.

The most important point I found was that Kyle believed if he provided a great product that showed a personal touch "I never want (my company) to get as big as Falcon Northwest", that word of mouth and reviews would sell systems and they would always have business. Without saying it, the inverse was implied - selling systems that weren't fully tested would kill his Internet "street cred." He knows that.

To AAC Direct, getting it right isn't a percentage value because they are small and intend to stay small. Getting it right is the reason their customers come to them.

That's Kosher Computing.

If you like, take an inside look at their operation.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

Monday, July 31, 2006

AACDirect / All American Computers

AAC Direct, or All American Computers, custom builds each PC separately, with results that show up in Tom's Hardware as The Best: Beats Alienware, Falcon Northwest and CyberPower. Coupled with great (if comparatively few) reviews on, I realized they might be a good alternative to a Dell XPS, given Dell's recent pricing changes and lack of a cohesive plan to move to Conroe. AAC already has a plan, given they've been beta-building Conroe ATI Crossfire rigs already.

So I e-mailed them and asked for a quote for a computer costing no more than $2,800 with shipping & tax, that can run Oblivion fluidly. I specified no parts other than "I want a Conroe Crossfire capable setup."

AAC shot back:
  • MOTHERBOARD: 975XBX (handles Crossfire)
  • RAM: DIMM 2GB 800MHZ - GEIL 800MHZ DDR2 2X1024MB VALUE DIMMS (or something)
  • HD: SEAGATE 320 GIG 7200 RPM SERIAL ATA HD (double up for RAID 0)
  • SOUNDCARD: (built-in)
Damage? 2,599.00! Much less than the limit I specified.

But before I ordered from them, I had to know "what is their support like?" I had read that the owner, Kyle Felstien, will sometimes answer the phone and talk as long as is necessary (indeed, he gave me the above quote), but I had to call them for myself.

The Phone Call:
Well I got Dave, who got Kyle because he said Kyle would know my order, and Kyle and I talked for 1 hour and 45 minutes. First we went over each item in the PC build - does the onboard sound work well or load the CPU? Okay, Audigy SE "Suck Edition" takes the load off of the CPU and doesn't have any fandangled features, but does do 5.1. Great. What's the difference between X1900 XT and X1900 XTX? $100 and 3-4%? Okay. Thank you for not making a "ka-ching" sound and quoting me the XTX. What's a LIAN LI case? Oh it's that good? Okay. I want that.

Then we talked about Gainesville, Florida, because Kyle used to live here. He even knew Burrito Brothers, the famous burrito shop where my dad used to work. I told him the rat story. He kind of chuckled and didn't say anything, like he was wondering "Was I eating there, then?"

Then we talked about the state of technology today, and two things became obviously clear: much of my two weeks of hardcore research had proved me right on many points (from Crossfire Express 3200 - 16x to the old 8x standard and what that means) and Kyle knew of tons of topics I just didn't know about - such as why ATI's roadmap for the future is better than Nvidia's and a distributor's nightmares in dealing with Nvidia (though he offered me an Nvidia rig 5 times just as a manner of speaking), why Conroes are so freaking hot (he knows about the architecture), and why ATI cards made now will, to a degree, support the DX10 standard of using GPU's as CPU's.

Warranty? How about Custom Burn-In of Every PC to go with that?
Oh, and did I mention that every system shipped goes through a complete burn-in? Comes with a 3 year parts warranty (1 year labor) and phone support for the life of the system?

Well, obviously, I found out about their phone support, and though they are a small shop that isn't there 24/7, they sold me.

As Kyle said "We put our major costs into building the computers and making sure they work, rather than technical support down the road." He has the latter, but as he said "We've only got so many people, so you can only reach us at business hours." However, they seemed helpful and glad to discuss any questions about the computers they sell you.

Kyle talked about build quality - about CyberPower's cheap computers that aren't even tested to Falcon Northwest and Alienware's costly systems. He builds custom "show cases" to more gamer oriented PureXS systems (LiquidXS systems are for rich folks at around $4,000).

Kyle and I spoke about art and laying out beautiful computer cases, cabling and cooling, airflow; more about why Conroes are badass, lighting, why fan lights are better than lighting tubes (basically the tubes are so bright many people get annoyed after several months, while fan lights are more subtle)...

It was an incredible phone conversation and I was riveted the entire time. I never told him that dinner (I was already going to eat alone because my mother had taken my wife & kids out shopping) was ready at 6:30pm. We didn't get off the phone until 7:50 (I'd called just after 6pm EST, when their store closes). Kyle is also an expert at Mexican goodbyes - where Mexicans say goodbye to each other, and in doing so think of something else fun to talk about, and go back at it. I'm great at it because I live with a Mexican girl, but Kyle can hold his own!

I have not had a more exciting conversation about computers since I worked for Rusty Butler in 1998. Only conversations with Jock and Billy come close, but since we're not industry developers like Rusty and Kyle, there's only so far we can go.

Money spent with AAC, I'm sure, will be well-spent.

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

E3 Dead

It's true. "The ESA will today seek to salvage some good from the wreckage of E3; but the spectacle that has held the industry in thrall for 12 years is at an end."

"...all major exhibitors have effectively pulled their support from the show, prompting the majority of game publishers to also cancel plans for high-cost booths." "The days of an industry event attended by all the major publishers, spending big money, are gone."

"The decision by big manufacturers and publishers to walk away has left ESA in damage-control mode. As we reported yesterday, E3, in its present form, is dead."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Can't Keep Terecita

Dulce, Alejandra and I have all gotten sick because of Terecita. I made sure to leave the kitten with the girls last night so that Dulce would wake up sick and realize what needed to be done without us just landing the bad news in her lap. It worked. The poor dear got so sick she had trouble breathing, woke up, put the kitten in the guest/girl's bathroom by herself, and went back to sleep.

Alejandra felt so guilty that she tried to hide her symptoms.

I just don't know why I was able to keep Midnight for two weeks and not get ill, as I recall, and this kitten had my allergies going after the first night. We've bathed her and she's quite clean. We keep the litterbox in her bathroom.

Alejandrita showed me a purse this morning with a lab puppy on it that looks reminiscent of Bella. She said "I don't want Bella here because she try to bite Gose (jose)." I talked with her and made her feel better. I realized instantly that she was preparing herself for losing Terecita - she saw that her sister, Dulce, was sick, and her mother.

That poor child. She is so good with animals. I ordered Maria to take the kitten to bed with her for the purpose I stated earlier, and Maria said that the kitten kept leaving her and going to sleep with Dulce and Alejandrita. I knew why - Alejandra has played with the kitten, petted her and let her sleep in her lap ever since I found her.

This morning, the kitten meowed softly, then sadly, then angrily, then despondantly, wanting someone to let her out. She's become so attached to people - she's the cat I've dreamt of having, but alas - I can never keep cats. Alay can't use Dr. Chance's remedy while breast-feeding.

Perhaps my friend, Brandon, can help keep her until he finds a home for her.

A cat like Terecita is good enough to make me wish I had no allergies, that is for sure. She's just so - odd - for a cat. She likes to be around people and is content being in someone's lap much of the day. I taught the girls to let her go when she'd leave, so she wouldn't feel constrained, and it worked. The kitten just chooses to be in a lap and tries to nurse my daughters' long dresses. She doesn't want to sleep alone at night, though she'll nap in her cat bed you bought for her. Sad. I'll have to find a friend to take her - no way this kitten goes to a stranger.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Teresita the Kitten rescued from the street

I was driving to work this morning along the urban-green streets of Gainesville, avoiding the main roads, when I saw a college student walking along the side of the road with a kitten hopping through the grass trying to follow him. Periodically he'd stop and try to wave her off with his hands or feet. The kitten would duck, but continue following him.

A cat that tries to follow a stranger? I did the math quickly and stopped at the STOP sign, turned right, stopped immediately (this confused the red land-yacht behind me, who eventually passed me), turned the minivan around, and drove back up to the walking student, kitten still in tow.

I asked him "Mister, could you grab that kitten for me?"

"Sure," he said, "she's going to get hit by a car." He picked her up; the kitten ducked but did not protest.

"My girls will love her." I said, taking her into my arms.

I held her in my left arm and drove with my right on the ride home; she pressed against me and purred. Every moment I was stopped or slowing down, I'd pet her, and she purred. I showed up at home and got out of the 1986 Plymouth Voyager minivan, Rafael. My daughters, perplexed at my return, opened the front door and saw the kitten. The picture above was actually staged; I had already come inside and given them instructions and was then leaving.

All I said was that her name was Teresita and we were keeping her and to keep Dulce Maria (my 6-year-old) from getting too close because I didn't want her asthma or my allergies (which seem to be fine around a clean one-cat house, but kill me around male cats or dirty houses) to stop us from keeping her.

Lunch Time
When I came home for lunch, she was lapping up her milk. I stepped into the girl's bathroom with her (the crate is in there with some of the colored wrapping paper you gave us outside the crate and a towel inside the crate) and my daughters quickly followed. I brought her out and put her on the kitchen table.

Teresita saw the spaghetti and steak Alejandra had made (though it was cut super-thin, Alay didn't realize until she got home) and stepped over to it and tried to find something to nibble on, so I cut up a piece of steak into tiny bits and fed her one noodle and lots of bits of steak. So she sat on the table and ate with us, and she seemed to think this was perfectly normal. She'd look up at us once in a while and go back to picking at her food. Sometimes she'd come over to my plate, especially if she had finished what I had given her (so naturally I'd give her more).

Once she was done with that we put her back in the bathroom and kept eating. She hopped out immediately and went under the table and startled Maria de Guadalupe (and vice-versa). I picked her up and held her in my lap and proceeded to pet her and scratch her softly. The girls joined in. Then Teresita surprised me by suddenly splaying out her side and lying prone, so we continued to softly scratch and pet her.

Then she suddenly jutted out her neck and chin, offering us her most tender spot without fear or doubt, and I scratched her ever so gently, at which point she fell asleep. After it was time for me to go, I carefully lifted her and put her in Lupe's lap, who was on the couch, and she fell back to sleep. Her head stirred when she heard the garage door, but when I called home at 2:48 PM, Teresita was still asleep in Lupe's lap. I left at 2:20. Talk about a patient 9-year-old!

So, that is what we know about little Teresita so far.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dell Laptop Bursts Into Flames In Japan

IPB Image

And this article that made me Google it...

Thanks be praised to Google Images search.

GP2X RTS (real-time strategy) game idea

See this post and the one immediately after it.

Based on what Tobriand said:

IPB Image

Can you tell who is flanking who with fighter/bombers? Can you tell which side has the bigger guns, but less corvettes/frigates?

Simplistic symbology, if done right, can tell a lot. After that, it's all gameplay. As you can see here, I assume the ships can rotate their facing, which can be used later for more complicated 2d or even 3d polygons, assuming the game was GPL and someone else came along afterwards.

It's all based on positioning...

IPB Image
Here's how this game works.

  1. You have four attack unit types: Capital Ships, Cruisers, Frigates and Fighters selected by pressing SELECT than A,X,B,Y.
  2. You have four support unit types: Mothership (makes more, and repairs), Repairship, Minelayers (every RTS needs something for turtles) and Turrets (mothership makes them and sends them to the square you designate) selected by pressing START than A,X,B,Y.
You can't control who your ships shoot at, you can only control their movement.

Selecting and Movement works in this way...
  • Press THUMBPAD down and you activate the "select grid", which makes the grid show up in the background with the button labels.
  • Press that button and your cursor appears there, 4x as big as usual (takes up the whole Y grid, for example). Press a diagonal to narrow your cursor down (you don't have to). Up assumes diagonal left, left assumes downleft, etcetera, for those accidental presses.
  • To grab grids that don't have a button, just move the grid-cursor with the thumbpad.
  • Press THUMBSTICK again, and whatever ships you have selected will go there.
To move something, you either select ALL of a unit type (SELECT, A would grab your Capitol Ships, wherever they are), or you select units in a grid (of any of the four types you currently are working on, based on whether you pressed SELECT or START last, either attack or support units). For example if we grabbed B we would net either the Mothership or the Frigates, but not both.
  • L, when the thumbstick hasn't been pressed, releases all selected units.
  • If you enter Thumbstick Grid-Select mode with units already selected, it assumes you want to move them. If nothing is selected, is assumes you want to select something, and then move it.

Rock, Paper, Scissors
Fighters go after other Fighters first, then Capitol Ships and Cruisers. Fighters are owned by Frigates. Frigates go after Fighters first, then other Frigates, and suck against Capital Ships. Capital Ships go after Cruisers then Frigates, and suck against Fighters. Cruisers are decent against Capitol Ships, Frigates, and Fighters, but don't own or be owned by anyone.

I think the Rock, Paper, Scissors needs to be change to 4 not 3. I think the grid system needs work - that center area is just too hard to select and you can't macro-select it with a 4x square. Perhaps "Volume -" would select the left two unlabeled squares, "Volume +" would select the right two, and THUMBSTICK down would select the middle two, which it would do every time until you press A,X,B or Y to macro-select another grid area.

Just stuff I come up with quickly.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Great Sunday

Dungeons and Dragons
My friend Dove proved again his ability to run a D&D game. He's not much on the creative side - he leaves an author's descriptions at the door, but he plays his NPCs accurately and well, complete with voices. Where he really shines is continuity and organization. His world always seems real because it is completely consistent. He has a perfect image of what's going on (even if he doesn't try to mimmick some Dickens and describe it all) and it shows when we play. He manages combat better than any DM I've played with, even Stan Lowman.

Stan's theory of combat was "when it gets so big I can't fit it all in my brain, I'll gloss over it." He'd use homebrew rules to "approximate" what happens when 40 enemies, en mass, do something. It'd be in keeping with the rules so we all went with it, besides which Stan was not a DM you questioned needlessly. He'd listen, but he was always in charge.

Dove, on the other hand, can handle 40 enemies in split groups coming at us from different angles, and keeps track of every single creature's stats & hitpoints - in part thanks to DM Genie (google that), a difficult program to use at first.

So Sunday was good.

A GGB fan and Guild Wars fan-forum moderator, LordFu, found me on the GP2X forums I frequent. At the D&D game, my GP2X proved an able MP3 player, if not portable (no way to easily carry it while moving about), and two D&D players fell in love with it. Decker liked Neo Geo (Metal Slug) while Jakob liked the Genesis emulation.

On this handheld, there's something for everyone.

Oh, neat post I found: Visual Comparison of the GP2X and it's predacessor, the GP32.