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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pleading The Case for Blu-Ray

Blu-Ray Disc logoImage via Wikipedia
Lately there have been more and more posts touting streaming of content over ownership of specifically DVDs. While I completely believe that streaming is a viable option I also believe a fair apples to oranges comparison should be had.

With out digging to deep in to the technical aspects of streaming some things should be understood. The HD resolutions are just that. A height by width measure of number of pixels with no accounting for the quality of those pixels. The higher the compression the worse the picture quality. Services like Netflix vary the image quality to fit your internet bandwidth in order to maintain that HD pixel number. There is no way your home internet bandwidth can match the bandwidth available to the internal components of a Blu-ray player. To be clear most internet connections are between 3 and 50Mbits. "BD Video movies have a maximum data transfer rate of 54 Mbit/s". So until fiber and gigabit to the home is ubiquitous a streamed video will never match the quality of a Blu-ray disc.

As I mentioned I believe streaming is good for most cases but for those couple of treasured movies that you watch over and over Blu-ray is the way to go. This constant preaching that physical discs should not be owned at all is selling both quality and control of content up the river to the giant corporations. Don't let it happen.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

No Netflix On Android. Amazon Has You Covered

Image representing Amazon as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
I admit I'm slow to discover things on occasion but so far no one else has mentioned this that I am aware of so hopefully it's not just a case of me being uninformed. I have a co-worker that won't shell out for Netflix but he does rent from the oft overlooked Amazon Streaming service. Now I don't recall what brought it up but he pointed out that Amazon Prime members get 5000 free streaming movies. Some of these movies are pretty solid. The likes of Dirty Hairy, Doctor Who(1-4) and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest are present. As luck would have it Amazon uses a flash based player for these movies. What this means is that if you have an Android device and you have the flash player installed(free from the market) then you can watch streaming video. Thats a whole new wealth of content for the viewing on your phone or tablet.

I tested this on my Droid Incredible connected to nothing but 3G. I ran in to a few hitches but once they were worked out it seems to work flawlessly. First navigating the video store is done more easily on a laptop or tablet and since I was testing on my phone I browsed for my movie on my laptop. Chrome has a nice plugin called Chrome to phone which I used to shoot the chosen video page to my phone. No browsing necessary. The first time I sent the link it automatically took me to the mobile version of the site which does not feature the actual player. I had to scroll to the bottom of the page and choose "full site" to get the full blown website with player to load. The other hurdle I came to was that I was not previously logged in to the site so I had to log in to ensure I had access to the free movies. Once you get past those two things the movie fires right up. Double tap the player to go full screen and sit back and enjoy!

On the 3G connection the compression was noticeably high but still watchable and on occasion I was seeing a short 1-2 second hitch every once in a while. Very usable all in all and I imagine flawless over Wifi.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Epsilon & PlayStation Network Security Recommendations

Logo of the PlayStation NetworkImage via Wikipedia
I amongst the 70 million have been effected by the PlayStation Network hack that took place between April 17th and April 19th. While there isn't much we can do right now there are some steps you may want to consider taking to protect your own security and financial well being. I'm sure some would like to think they are extreme but after the security breach with  Epsilon recently and now this there is no good reason to take chances.

I will state clearly I am not an information security professional. I have however been working in the Information Technology industry for 13(going on 14) years. I've suffered similar security breaches before and I've heard of them happening many times before. I am also a member of the US Military who under goes security briefings anually on protection of data and while deployed served my section as the Information Management Officer. While my primary role is not information security I have enough experience to know that the bottom line is that information security is every ones problem. What follows are some recommendations. Some vital, some, may be only if you are paranoid.

First and fore most purchases online can only be made if all the pieces of information line up. Your online account information(username & password), your card/account number, your PII or Personally Identifiable Information, and typically a physical marker for your card(that 3 digit number on the back). So your first line of defense against security breaches that have all ready taken place is to change as much of this information as possible.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Expelling the Section 8 Prejudice(s)

Section 8 Prejudice Wallpaper
Section 8 is a game by Timegate Studios featuring first person shooting and a host of innovative and different game play mechanics. Sadly this fact was not clearly communicated and was thus lost on the general public. Most, I think, came looking for a PC version of a Halo experience. What they got was a game so different it required a learning curve to great for the typical Halo player to handle. PC gaming vetreans who have mastered the learning curve behind a game like Starsiege: Tribes had little problem getting in to the game but only after spending some time learning and doing some reading on forums to discover the pieces left out of the game tutorials.

The biggest detractor wasn't any one game mechanic but rather a mentality. One that Halo and Call of Duty fans have had to deal with very little until recent itterations of those games. That being management. Section 8 required you to passively manage your armor configuration, weapons load out and even your spawn location on the map. Things that see limited use, and some times don't appear at all on other games. Then once you are "on the ground" you have to manage not just shields but your movement power and timing while you move. As well you need to manage your weapon choices as you go along. Plasma isn't useful against a physically heavy armored targets where physical rounds are more effective and vice versa for lightly armored heavily shielded targets. Once you pile on item and mission requests the game becomes a rough learning curve and a much more tactical experience.

Unfortunately it appeared Timegate's dev team did not effectively communicate to their PR firm/department the nature of the game and it was advertised in the same manor as other pick up and shoot FPS games. So when the masses arrived they found they were shooting their shielded opponent with full gattling magazines and doing little damange which became frustrating so they left declaring Section 8 a terrible game. If only they knew you needed to drop the enemies shields first with plasma based weapons before inflicting the physical damage.

I played Section 8 and loved it while it lasted. Unfortunately it didn't last very long with both the PC and PS3 console versions dwindling to almost nothing with in a year. I did in fact buy it twice, once on PC and once on PS3 and I wager folks like me are the reason Timegate has been able to make another game. They do say they've made many changes to the new game. Their marketing doesnt look much different so here's to hoping their tutorial systems are better and that they haven't stripped the game entirely of it's tacticle essence that was so amazing the first go around.

Timegates website can be found here.
The Section 8 Prejudice website is here.

Go grab your copy on:
Steam (releases 4 May 2011) Pre-order nets you 10% off for a cost of $13.49.
Xbox (all ready released)
PS3 (No date set yet "coming soon" on Timegates Buy Now page)

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Curious Case of Portal 2

Any one who claims to be a gamer should know who Valve is and any one who claims to be a geek should have played, at least once, the game called Portal. Portal posits the concept that the cake is a lie. Now it appears the cake that is Portal 2 may in fact be real and we might be able to have it a few days early. Valve has opened up the site with their new program called GLaDOS@Home distributed computational grid which uses your gaming processor cycles to power up GLaDOS. There is a meter on the site that seems to indicate a completion status and a timer that, at the time of writing, is sitting at 93 hours. While the meter indicates a completion status the timer doesnt seem to be changing pace. Some sources have indicated that they think this timer is associated with the estimated release time based on the current gaming cycles being spun up but some rough math shows that it's approximately the time to the official release date. A little miss leading perhaps but still good motivation to get those games out and play play play!

The 93 hour timer does in fact coincide with the original release date listed on as being the 19th. 93 hours is 3.875 days which would land you in the AM on the 19th.
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