Happy Christmas, 2007

While it’s not exact­ly the rea­son for the sea­son, watch­ing Angela rock out to her new copy of Gui­tar Hero III — Leg­ends of Rock (Wii) in her PJ’s is a pret­ty good rea­son to love Christ­mas morn­ing. That kind of sums up the Christ­mas we’re hav­ing here in Rich­mond this year. We’ve been just relax­ing, hang­ing out around the house, and enjoy­ing Ains­ley’s first Christ­mas. That includes play­ing lots of Nin­ten­do.

Beginning Rock Godess

As much as I thought I was pret­ty hard­core for hav­ing been able to rock Ains­ley to sleep by play­ing a cou­ple of hours of Metroid Prime 3: Cor­rup­tion, I was yet again shown up by Ange­la’s amaz­ing mul­ti-task­ing skills. She was able to play Super Mario Galaxy while feed­ing Ains­ley. There has to be sev­er­al rea­sons why I could­n’t do that myself…

So, any­way, have a very hap­py Christ­mas this year and enjoy what­ev­er hol­i­days you and your fam­i­ly cel­e­brate!

What I’d Like To See Happen With The Apple iPhone

Ini­tial­ly, Angela was pret­ty excit­ed about the Apple iPhone when we watched Steve Job’s pre­sen­ta­tion on the day of it’s announce­ment. The abil­i­ty to have all of her elec­tron­ics in one easy-to-han­dle device was very appeal­ing to her, even with the high price tag and required cell provider switch (which we did, with some regret after the fact). Of course, this is the big draw to the iPhone for a lot of peo­ple, cou­pled with the amaz­ing­ly ele­gant inter­face.

How­ev­er, her enthu­si­asm soured as she learned that not only would her old hand­held soft­ware not work on the iPhone, there was not going to be any sanc­tioned third par­ty appli­ca­tions. Her hand­held phar­ma­cy data base is her killer ap and it’s non-exis­tence is a deal-killer for her.

Big deal, right? Who else cares about a phar­ma­cy data­base? But that is the big deal: there is a large pool of exist­ing appli­ca­tions for the hand­held mar­ket that don’t work on the iPhone and those users aren’t (and some­times can’t) turn their backs on them just for a nicer phone expe­ri­ence. Sure, the iPhone isn’t just a PDA, but if it is to replace all those gad­gets in some­one’s pock­et, it has to replace all those gad­gets.

Apple was the poster child for long tail eco­nom­ics. The iTunes Music Store showed what was pos­si­ble with infi­nite, free shelf space. Apple does­n’t write music or shows, they just re-sell them in a cen­tral and easy to use store. They even now have some soft­ware (even if they are just some rather unap­peal­ing games for the iPod).

So, in my opin­ion, the killer ap for the iPhone isn’t even entire­ly on the phone. Rather, it is a soft­ware store in the iTMS. Apple gets to set some bar­ri­er to entry which will help to screen out a lot ‘unde­sir­able’ stuff, help­ing to ensure the sta­bil­i­ty and usabil­i­ty of it’s phone plat­form. This allows for soft­ware that goes way down the long tail to flour­ish and opens up the entire plat­form of the iPhone to users that might not have been able to take advan­tage pre­vi­ous­ly. I think that this is the gate­way that Feb­ru­ary’s SDK is going to present: Apple as online soft­ware re-sell­er.

The sec­ond part cou­ples with this: get­ting exist­ing long tail soft­ware onto the new plat­form. If we are to believe that the iPhone is a mobile ver­sion of OS X, then what is to stop it from run­ning Palm or Win­dows Mobile soft­ware in a mini-vir­tu­al machine envi­ron­ment? Of course, there is some over­head with run­ning soft­ware this way. How­ev­er, it’s not too hard to imag­ine that a cur­rent iPhone can run at least a Palm emu­la­tor and soft­ware from a decade old mobile OS1. Sure, Win­dows Mobile might be more of a stretch, but it also does­n’t have the num­ber of appli­ca­tions that Palm does (did, if the rumors of Palm’s death are to be believed). There­fore, a Palm VM would have the most reach down the long tail.

So that’s my half-pre­dic­tion/ half-wish for the iPhone: An online store from Apple for third-par­ty apps and one of those apps being a Palm emu­la­tor on the phone itself.

  1. One pos­si­ble advan­tage the iPhone may have here is that it uses an ARM archi­tec­ture proces­sor, sim­i­lar to that found Palm v5.0 devices. Of course, I don’t know whether Palm apps from ear­li­er ver­sions (v4.0 and ear­li­er), which ran on Freescale proces­sors, run on Palm v5.0. If not, this isn’t an advan­tage but a not-so-small hur­dle. Fur­ther, the iPhone uses the ARM11 where-as recent Palms seem to use the X Scale. I’m not going to pre­tend to know enough about chip archi­tec­ture to make any fur­ther asser­tions, oth­er than to say this might be an advan­tage. []

Beatles Versus Led Zepplin

I always though the only things the Bea­t­les and Led Zep­plin had in com­mon was that they were both genius, Eng­lish rock bands who had a pen­chant for mis­spelling. While that is prob­a­bly still true, what would it have sound like had The Bea­t­les writ­ten “Stair­way to Heav­en?” Well, it might have sound like this:


That’s the Aus­tralian trib­ute band, The Beat­nix, per­form­ing on a tele­vi­sion show in the ear­ly 90’s (via Boing­Bo­ing).

Ed Coleman Leaving Gateway After Acer Acquisition

CEO (and cousin) Edward Cole­man will leave Gate­way at the end of Jan­u­ary, Acer’s Rudi Schmi­dlei­th­n­er will be tak­ing over the inte­gra­tion of Acer and Gate­way after this year’s acqui­si­tion. Well, here’s hop­ing that Edward and his fam­i­ly move back East. I sure look for­ward to talk­ing to him some­time about his expe­ri­ences there.

Nintendo Leaving Money On the Table

More than a year after the Nin­ten­do Wii hit the mar­ket (did any ever actu­al­ly ‘hit the shelves’?), there is only greater demand for the gam­ing con­sole. As with every­thing on the inter­nets, some the­o­rize this is some con­spir­a­cy or mar­ket­ing scam. Well, I’ve argued all along that it would­n’t be a very good one. Seems that some ana­lysts agree, esti­mat­ing that the Big N of Japan is los­ing as much as $1.3 Bil­lion in poten­tial prof­its in lost sales. The only shin­ing cloud is the gen­er­al con­sen­sus that Nin­ten­do refus­es to sell loss lead­ers and still makes prof­it on every con­sole, game, and acces­so­ry they sell.

Nintendo Trinity on the Wii

Last mon­th’s release of Super Mario Par­ty saw the com­ple­tion of the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of Nin­ten­do’s flag­ship titles for it’s newest con­sole sys­tem: the Wii. Along with the release title of The Leg­end of Zel­da: Twi­light Princess and this August’s Metroid Prime 3: Cor­rup­tion, Mario, Link, and Samus are all present on the Wii and in three of the most amaz­ing games. Ever.

To be hon­est, I’ve not got­ten too far in any of the games, hav­ing had the time and ener­gy to only put a few hours into each one1. I have got­ten fair­ly far in each and have played them enough each to com­ment on just how amaz­ing each is.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The Leg­end of Zel­da: Twi­light Princesrat­ed a 95 at Meta­crit­ic.

The Leg­end of Zel­da: Twi­light Princess was, of course, a launch game (and, like Super Paper Mario, a Game­cube port). In an admis­sion of my lack of com­mit­ment to gam­ing, I still haven’t fin­ished the game. All the same, it remains to be a won­der­ful­ly fun game and prob­a­bly one of the best of the Zel­da series. The con­trol scheme is pos­si­bly the least like sense­less wag­gling of the Wiimote of any Wii game yet. The spa­tial motions seem to make sense, which is good because there are quite a lot of moves to mas­ter in the game. Like almost all of the mod­ern Nin­ten­do games, this one has a great and intense sto­ry. This real­ly draws the play­er in, but does­n’t real­ly allow for casu­al gam­ing. As much as I want­ed friends to be able to jump in and play around to see how great it was, this just isn’t a game and sto­ry that allows for this sort of thing. This game is an epic nov­el that rewards atten­tion, time, and ded­i­ca­tion; much the oppo­site of many Wii games.


Metroid Prme 3: Corruption

Metroid Prme 3: Cor­rup­tionrat­ed a 90 at Meta­crit­ic.

As for Metroid Prme 3: Cor­rup­tion, I am not real­ly a fan of — nor par­tic­u­lar­ly good at — first per­son shoot­er games2. But I mean wow. This game is so much fun due to its per­fect bal­ance of shoot­ing action, explo­ration, and puz­zle solv­ing. It isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult to explore and com­plete most of the tasks but I can imag­ine that to be tru­ly fast and effi­cient this game would require a lot more skill than I have. Effi­cien­cy is some­thing that the Metroid series has tra­di­tion­al­ly reward­ed and I sus­pect that MP3 has that aspect in it. Also, this game real­ly cap­tures a lot of the explo­ration and back-track ele­ments of the old-school Metroid games. In spite of the less­er horse­pow­er in the diminu­tive Wii when com­pared to oth­er 5th gen­er­a­tion con­soles and PCs, this game has beau­ti­ful visu­als and amaz­ing detail. I believe that this rep­re­sents the great­est first-per­son shoot­er ever cre­at­ed.


Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy – rat­ed a 97 at Meta­crit­ic.

The delayed Super Mario Galaxy was prob­a­bly one of the most antic­i­pat­ed Wii games since the con­sole’s release over a year ago. Hav­ing not had much desire to play many of the 3D Mario games, I found myself pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by this game. The con­trols and cam­era angles make play­ing the game very nat­ur­al. Galaxy has some of the same nods to Mario games of the past that Super Paper Mario does, and even much of it’s humor (though with a few less cracks in the fourth wall).

These games rep­re­sent the quin­tes­sen­tial set on the Wii with respect to Nin­ten­do’s her­itage. Of course, you still have to con­sid­er Wii Sports as an impor­tant Wii game for its demon­stra­tion of the con­trol mech­a­nisms. How­ev­er, the three games above, rep­re­sent Nin­ten­do’s advanced sto­ry-telling in com­bi­na­tion with the inno­v­a­tive con­trols, as well as pay­ing trib­ute to the char­ac­ters that put Nin­ten­do on the map.


  1. I had con­sid­ered writ­ing this arti­cle months ago, includ­ing Super Paper Mario as part of the big N Wii trin­i­ty; a game that I’ve come with­ing about ten min­utes of beat­ing (pathet­ic, huh?). How­ev­er, SPM is kind of a platform/rpg hybrid and was seen as being out­side of the true Mario lega­cy. That being said, it is an amaz­ing game and loads of fun. Also, it could be argued that the Metroid Prime series of games aren’t real­ly full-on Metroid games, either. Me, I’m just inter­est­ed in some real­ly great games, so I’ll not be too picky. []
  2. Although, I must admit that Bioshock and Por­tal look great and Halo 3 almost makes me con­sid­er buy­ing a 360 – (but not real­ly). I still can’t think of any rea­son oth­er than “cheap Blu-Ray play­er” to want a PS3 []

A New Direction For My Career

Bentley

As a result of our mov­ing, I have tak­en a posi­tion of Senior Tech­ni­cal Writer with Bent­ley Sys­tems, Inc. Specif­i­cal­ly, I’ll be work­ing with soft­ware in the struc­tures group. In the past three years, Bent­ley has acquired sev­er­al big names in struc­tur­al engi­neer­ing soft­ware: REI (STAAD), RAM Inter­na­tion­al, and more recent­ly TDV GmbH (RM). I think that a num­ber of engi­neers were sur­prised to see this move by Bent­ley (at least I was), par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the per­cep­tion that STAAD and RAM were major com­peti­tors. How­ev­er, as I’ve learned a bit more about the com­pa­ny and what the direc­tion of the struc­tures group appears to be in, it has become clear that they have in place a remark­able suite of struc­tur­al appli­ca­tions. What’s more, they are posi­tion them­selves to pro­vide soft­ware for vir­tu­al­ly any struc­ture type or size. Along the way of pol­ish­ing the ele­ments to build this tool­box, they are inte­grat­ing all of them so they are bet­ter equipped to work in the future world of Build­ing Infor­ma­tion Mod­el­ing, which is the new hot­ness in the con­struc­tion and engi­neer­ing world.

So, let me back up a bit and explain how I got here.

Though I have to admit it felt at first like tak­ing a long shot at the time, I sent out some resumes to some engi­neer­ing soft­ware firms to gauge their inter­est in hir­ing a struc­tur­al engi­neer to work remote­ly. I was pleased when two com­pa­nies, includ­ing Bent­ley, were inter­est­ed. I did my best to learn all I could about the posi­tions and prod­ucts of both (I have been a career user of the prod­ucts now in Bent­ley’s line, though). After learn­ing more about what they had in mind for both their soft­ware and this posi­tion, I real­ized that this was indeed the cor­rect career path for me. To put anoth­er way, I believe that while both are excel­lent posi­tions, I want­ed the job I felt was not just a good fit for me but a great one.

It is a bit daunt­ing to leave behind a career in design, but at this point it real­ly feels like the nat­ur­al back­ground for the work I’ll be doing in the future, rather than a total career change. The knowl­edge in design and work­ing in a con­sult­ing office will be indis­pens­able as a tech­ni­cal writer as well as to serve as a liai­son between engi­neer­ing clients and soft­ware pro­gram­mers; get­ting to talk to them about what they’d like our soft­ware to do and present to them how they can achieve that.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, I wrote about being so appre­hen­sive about total life changes. Well, when this job came togeth­er, some­thing inside me clicked and every­thing just felt right. It’s not most peo­ple’s idea of a dream job to work most­ly at home writ­ing and talk­ing about engi­neer­ing soft­ware, but it kind of is mine. I’m gen­uine­ly excit­ed about the work I’ll be doing as well as the com­pa­ny I’ll be doing it for; one that real­ly seems to be pro­vid­ing a great set of appli­ca­tions and is mov­ing the indus­try for­ward in terms of tech­nol­o­gy and how to ben­e­fit design­ers.

Also, for the first time in my life, being a nerd isn’t a social draw­back; it’s a lifestyle and a mar­ketable skill set.


Freakosecurity

If you only read one inter­view with secu­ri­ty and cryp­tog­ra­phy expert Bruce Schneier today, make it this one host­ed by Freako­nom­ics co-author Stephen Dub­n­er, with ques­tions sub­mit­ted by his blog read­ers. Loads of great links to posts and arti­cles by Schneier on issues of secu­ri­ty, most of which comes down to ques­tions of eco­nom­ics (and why it is on the Freako­nom­ics blog). Just one short quote:

I write my pass­words down. There’s this ram­pant myth that you shouldn’t write your pass­words down. My advice is exact­ly the oppo­site. We already know how to secure small bits of paper. Write your pass­words down on a small bit of paper, and put it with all of your oth­er valu­able small bits of paper: in your wal­let.