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Sing me a song

Posted: August 30th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: mostly insane ramblings | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Liam decided to be talkative earlier this evening.  I was able to grab it on film.

Liam Sings

Who needs maps?

Posted: August 28th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: mostly insane ramblings | Tags: , | No Comments »

After spending a few hours at the office earlier today, I decided to tour a bit around Washington, DC.  I had picked up a map for both the mall area and the metro system before I left the hotel, so I was prepared to navigate.

As I was getting off the train at Metro Center though, I realized that the maps were pretty pointless, because I have Google Maps on my Blackberry with GPS.  I fired it up, and turned on GPS.  As I was walking past buildings on my way to the office, and then to the National Mall, I watched on Google Maps and knew what each building was.  So much nicer than the static map (which did not label each building).  When I was walking by the IRS building I zoomed in on satellite view and saw that the building, which looks to be a huge solid structure on the outside, actually has a few courtyards in the middle (one even has a tree).  I would have never known that if not for Google Maps.

I am sure things like this are not as impressive to the younger generation, but to old guys like me who don’t remember to do things like this regularly it is quite eye opening.  A totally different way to navigate and sightsee.


RSS – Not a recipe for boredom

Posted: August 26th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: internet and technology | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Robert Scoble wrote an article earlier today about how he is bored with the discussions around RSS. Basically, RSS is not real time, and Twitter offers the best access to news and information.  I am being very loose with the summary, but it’s really just best to read his short article if you want to get his meaning.

He ends by asking “What about you? Is RSS interesting or boring to you? Why?”.  This struck me immediately as I have been spending more and more time on Google Reader recently reading RSS,. and I figured I should write up a response.  I should say that I fit somewhere in-between a news hound like Robert or Louis and what I would call a casual RSS user (someone who adds a feed to their My Yahoo page for example).

I wanted to make just two points to answer his question.  I find RSS to still be quite exciting.  This is in part due to the social aspects of Google Reader that have been brought online recently, and in part due to new and better filters which are available.

The first point I want to make is that while Twitter is a great way to get the most recent information, but it is just a big black hole.  If you have the time to watch everything getting sucked into the void you can derive a lot of value, but once the tweets have passed into the void beyond they are gone.  One of the first things I do in the morning is check in with the Twitter trending topics.  This morning I saw that Senator Kennedy had died.  Trending topics can be a great Twitter filter.  This news was not in my paper, nor was it in Google Reader yet, making Twitter’s speed a benefit in this regard.  I filter Twitter by following a number of topics via searches, and I read the filtered content through RSS and Google Reader.  I am basically putting a video camera right in front of the black hole which is recording everything on a particular subject that goes in.  I don’t need to read all of those items, but I have them captured should I need them.  I agree with Robert that Twitter is important, and I agree that filters are important (even better filters than we have now), but it is the ability to grab that filtered Twitter content as RSS that makes Twitter really useful to me.

Secondly, I have to ask where is all of the great content in Twitter is coming from if not RSS?  Isn’t it PubSubHubBub and RSS feeding these new post from the blogs into Twitter and FriendFeed super fast?  Even the articles that feed into Twitter a little slower are often coming from people who are monitoring various news and blog sources (through an RSS reader).  In my mind, RSS is not boring because it is the root of getting this information distributed.  I love hearing about new advances in getting information into RSS faster.

Robert is right though, filtering is super important.  This is why I am finding the new social features in Google Reader nice.  I am able to look very quickly at articles for shares and likes to see how popular articles are.  I can sort articles by comments which can be helpful as well.  The filters are not perfect yet, but better than they were.  Filtering and search functionality will continue to improve and I will continue to take advantage of those in my feed reader.


Bookmark Sync in Chrome

Posted: August 17th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: internet and technology | Tags: , , | No Comments »

There were two announcements tonight that are good news for Google Chrome users.  First, the Chrome developer channel has been updated and now has the option to sync your bookmarks across all instances of Chrome.  Xmarks has also announced a closed alpha test for their own sync option for Chrome.

Sync_Setup I downloaded the newest Chrome and setup the sync.  It is easy to do, just need to add the –enable-sync switch onto the end of your Chrome shortcut (in Windows).  Once you have enabled the switch, and restarted Chrome you will have a new option to setup sync.  It uses your Google Account and oddly enough it stores the bookmarks not in Google Bookmarks but rather in Google Docs.  It took me a few minutes to find where they were stored but I noticed that I now have a Hidden option between Starred and Trash in the Google Docs sidebar and in that Hidden folder are all of my bookmarks.  This was quite unexpected as it leaves all of those bookmarks I have built up in Google Bookmarks high and dry.  It also continues the trend in Chrome to not offer tagging for bookmarks.

Chrome_Bookmarkshidden

UPDATE:

It appears that the bookmarks are not just in hidden, they also do show up in an obviously named Google Chrome folder in the sidebar.  Not sure how I missed that one.

image

I have assumed that Google would be working on an enhanced bookmarking application that would be a part of the Google OS, but perhaps I am wrong.  It will be interesting to see how things develop.


Travelling with 1005ha

Posted: August 16th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: internet and technology | Tags: , | No Comments »

I was in South Dakota on the 6 – 9 of August attending my 20 year high school reunion.  A day before I left I received a new netbook from Amazon, the EEE PC 1005ha.  I really love my EEE 901 for everything except typing, the keyboard is a little too small and it has a bad habit of entering double letters on occasion.  It was enough of a hindrance that I decided to replace the machine.

Perhaps the best thing about the 901 is the size.  The 901 was one of the last batches of 8.9” EEE PC’s and that really is the best form factor for travelling.  I reluctantly went with the new 10” display standard and purchased my 3rd EEE PC (701, 901, and now the 1005ha).  I size difference is noticeable when compared to the 901, but the weight is quite similar thanks to the seashell design of the 1005. 

The claim to fame of the 1005 is it’s 10.5 hour battery life, which I am not sure I am seeing under my usage.  I show 6:00 left with 88.8% remaining which is definitely better than the 901, but not quite the 10.5 hours that was promised.  I did upgrade the computer to Windows 7, so it is possible that there is a difference in times vs. the XP that normally ships on the laptop.  I am happy with the battery so far and will try some battery bench marks when I have a chance.

The keyboard was the main reason for upgrading and I am very, very happy with the outcome.  The keyboard is a bit clicky, but very fast and responsive.  The keys are large enough to type on comfortably and the new configuration gives a good sized shift key on each side of the keyboard.  I am easily able to touch type on the keyboard, at least as well as I can on most keyboards.  I am not sure if the difference is the larger device or just the better keyboard but it has made a world of difference where typing is concerned.

About the only thing that I do not like about the laptop thus far is that it comes with a 160GB hard drive.  It is not the size that I dislike, it is the fact that it is a traditional HDD instead of an SSD.  The drive is so much slower than what I am used to on the EEE 901 (which I upgraded to a 16 GB Runcore SSD).  This drive has been very slow at times, with very slow boot times as well as slowness returning from sleep (see the benchmark below).  I think I will nab a 64 GB SDD from the Runcore Pro SATA line.  The read and write speeds on that SSD are quite fast and I am thinking that it will make this laptop perfect.

image 
Disk benchmark for included HDD.

I am looking forward to this being my primary laptop for the next year.  With the nicer keyboard it is my hope that it will be easier to write a bit more.  I would recommend the 1005ha to anyone interested in a 10” netbook.


The New RSS – Follow people not sites

Posted: August 16th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: internet and technology | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Thanks in part to the announcement by FriendFeed that they are being acquired by Facebook, the recently added social features (and here as well) of Google Reader have really taken off over the past week.  Google Reader has become a place to not only read RSS feeds, but to have discussions on the best articles (replacing FriendFeed? only time will tell).

For me, one of the best parts of this new found interest in Google Reader and sharing is that all of the 40+ people I am now following are sharing the best articles they read with me.  Instead of having to cull through 600+ feeds, I can make do with the 120 or so that I really care about and let all of the people I am following do the rest of the work for me.  I am still following sites via RSS, but this new crop of people I am following is where the real value is on Google Reader.  For example, I don’t actively follow or read TechCrunch (for various reasons) but I know that many of the people I am following do.  I am able to track the most important articles from TechCrunch in this way.

sharingsettings The ability to share items in Reader is not a new one, nor is the option to comment on them.  The Reader team has recently added the ability to like articles though.  These social features all came together recently when Google changed the way you can search for and subscribe to other people.  Leveraging Google Profiles, you can search for people who use Reader and have shared items.  This makes the feature so much more usable, as I don’t have to ask people for their email address.  The whole thing integrates with Google Contacts, which is nice if you already use Google Contacts, and works by simply adding the people you follow to groups.  Once they are in a group you can allow the group to comment on your items.  This is a critical step as it is what opens up to social side of Google Reader.  While this method is a bit tricky for people, and not terribly intuitive, it is nice that the default option is to keep things private.  I like having control over what I share.

Confused by how this works?  You can take a look at the image on the pingmicro site which attempts to explain it.  I am planning to record a short video in the next couple of days that walks through how this all comes together.

You can find me on Google Reader (like everywhere else) by searching for seanabrady. 


A Whole New Warhammer

Posted: August 13th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: games and gaming | No Comments »

I read the press release from Fantasy Flight Games this morning about a new version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.  The game has languished a bit since they picked it up from Black Industries, and their have been a lot of rumors that a new version was imminent.

"We’re proud to re-introduce the Warhammer world to role-playing with this revolutionary approach,” said Christian T. Petersen, CEO of FFG. “It is one that harnesses the flavor of prior WFRP editions, but brings about that experience in a more evocative, tactile, and visual way than the past," he continued. "We’ve worked long and hard to to publish a game that we hope will represent a positive paradigm shift in roleplaying game design, production, and play experience. This is not another re-tread of the traditional RPG approach, this is something new, something exciting. Something that existing RPG fans will want to test for themselves."

A new version in and of itself is not something that scares me, but this new version does a little bit.  Rather than recount everything that has changed I will point you to the press release, new mini site, and game description.

I have a few thoughts on what I have read:

  • The game sounds interesting enough to buy, as it looks to be a very fast play sort of game.
  • The price point of $99.00 is way to high for a pen and paper RPG.  I wonder if FFG will classify this as a new style of RPG?
  • The description of the game reminds me a lot of the Descent Road to Legend game.  Especially with the pouches that you store your character sheet and dice in between sessions.
  • Custom Dice?  Of what I read this is the only really, really disappointing part.  Custom Dice are a pain in the ass.  I just don’t see what they could bring to the game.
  • The comparison with board games will likely be common, and the official forums are already filled with lots of discussion (most of it negative).
  • A sealed box set that contains the core rules makes it a bit difficult for people to browse the game, most RPG’ers prefer to browse the rules before buying.  I hope FFG comes up with a way around this.

With all things it is best to wait and see the game play before making a final judgement.  There will be some demo’s this week at GenCon, and hopefully we will get a good look at the game and game play.  I started playing Warhammer Fantasy back in 1988, and have been hooked ever since.  The first edition of the game lasted a very, very long time, and the 2nd edition of the game made changes but kept the core of the game the same.  Looks like the 3rd edition will really shake things up, but only time will tell if that is a good thing.


Monster Builder – The Vile Crypt Ghoul

Posted: July 30th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: games and gaming | No Comments »

image Yes…I spent my lunch hour today playing with the monster builder like all good GM’s should.  And yes, I created a quick monster…a ghoul.  Oh, and yes I really could not think of a better power name than Crypt Juice for his little disgusting burst.

You can see the image based output of the monster stat block below.  I added a lot of different features to him just to see how the software worked.  My initial impression is that the software is easy to use, but does require quite a bit of imagination get the right feel.  I really like that you can drag powers in from other sources and edit them.  Both the claw and the quick bite power are borrowed (from the Ghoul and one of the Gnoll powers).

A few things took me a minute to figure out.  On the Quick Bite it was not immediately apparent that I could type the extra text after free.  There are a lot of description and info boxes in the powers area, and you kinda have to type in each one to see where it displays in the power.  I also was not sure how to get the image file of the stat block (you need to right click in the monster list).  Otherwise, so far so good.

All in all this is a nice looking beta product and a welcome addition to the DDI offerings.  Wizards seems to be moving in the right direction with the tools for 4th edition D&D.

image


DDI Monster Builder Beta Tomorrow

Posted: July 29th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: games and gaming | No Comments »

Monster_Builder Wizards of the Coast will be releasing the Monster Builder beta to all DDI subscribers sometime tomorrow.  We got to see some nice pictures of the software a few weeks back, and it appears that tomorrow is the day we get to try it out first hand.

I had a chat with some fellow gamers tonight, one of which has been using the software as a tester, and it sounds like this is going to be a really amazing tool for DM’s.  Hopefully, players will appreciate all of the new creations that come their way.

Personally, I am most interested in borrowing powers from one creature to use in another.  I like this because I understand that the program will automatically scale the power based on the level of the new creature.  Easy to take your favorite level 30 power and throw it on your level 1 minion and have it scale out correctly.  Yet another tool that makes the job of the DM in 4th edition D&D that much easier.

I am sure downloads will be busy (and slow) tomorrow.  Hopefully it releases while I am still at work and can take advantage of the big bandwidth.


Savage Worlds Rippers – Facebook Style

Posted: July 29th, 2009 | Author: sean | Filed under: games and gaming | No Comments »

I am not one to play many (any) of the games on Facebook typically, but I heard about a game based on the Rippers RPG from Pinnacle Entertainment and just had to give it a go.

Rippers is a monster hunting game set in Victorian times.  Players are part of secret monster hunting societies that keep people safe from the evil the lurks in the dark shadows.

The RPG uses the Savage Worlds rule set which is certainly one of my favorites. 

I am just getting into the game, but it looks to be pretty well done.  I have high hopes, something to check out if you are a gamer on Facebook.

Rippers on Facebook