Thursday, December 30, 2010

RFC: Simple method for generating, saving and/or sharing Xbox 360 screen captures/grabs

Xbox 360 Slim foto 1

Image by Casul Media via Flickr

The problem: We Xbox 360 gamers love to brag and share on our experiences playing the console, but there is simply no easy way to grab a screen capture or video. Some games have implemented this kind of feature and it is extremely popular. For example, Halo 3 let me record a game as pure telemetry, which kept the file size tiny, then use it to generate a video that I could edit for view angle (overkill). Forza 3 allows you to take captures with an in-game camera, and even allows exporting videos.

Proposed solution:

Implement changes to the Xbox 360 dashboard, that allows the user to:

  1. Hit the center button in the controller and quickly take a screen grab, which can be:
    1. saved to the Xbox 360 pictures library.
    2. sent to any of the members of the friends list.
    3. send it to the SkyDrive associated with the Live ID associated with the gamer tag.
  2. Optional:
    1. same functionality as #1, but as a video.
    2. same functionality as #1.2, but for other social media like Twitter and Facebook.
    3. same functionality as #1.3, but for Flickr, Picasa, etc.

If you are reading this and you know how to reach the powers that be that are actually in a position to suggest this kind of feature, please let me know.

The biggest challenge here is that it can’t be a community project: third party content generated by the community is limited to Arcade games, anything beyond that is usually between Microsoft and some other entity (think Netflix,, Twitter, etc.). The only way this can be implemented is by the team that drives the development of the console dashboard.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why not just give us the damn printer for free?

Windows Vista Recycle Bin when it contains files.

Image via Wikipedia

My old piece of crap disposable Lexmark ($35 or so) died after about 5 or 6 cartridge pairs, and its demise matched the Christmas rush specials at Amazon. The end result was that Amazon was all too happy to ship to my door a Canon PIXMA MP495 wireless Printer/Scanner/Copier combo for $53, of which $3.95 was the upgrade to next-day for Amazon Prime. Last time I had shopped for a printer combo was only a couple years ago and it was hard to score one for less than $100, so either things are really rough for Canon or maybe I got too lucky with this particular Amazon sale.

The printer was a pain in the ass to install. It boasts that it is fully compatible with Windows 7, yet its installer doesn’t understand the administrator permissions in Widows 7-64. I had to download everything, which meant half hour of finding each separate package needed, instead of letting me download one installer with everything needed for, say, Windows. It gets worse: the same CD had the Mac installer, which worked fine, but even if all drivers were installed, it only turned it on as a scanner, I had to go back to tell it that it was also a printer. The driver recognized it fine.

Another pain in the ass was the networking. The morons that wrote the documentation for this printer call the USB cable the “wireless setup cable” which is just idiotic. I don’t know how a person that is not technically savvy can install this kind of thing without having to call tech support. This has been the hardest printer install I have had to do.

The good news is that all of this happened in the course of one hour. I was able to configure two Windows 7-64 laptops, and one Mac OS 10.5.x Intel iMac with no issues. The printer is very fast, even in color, even over wireless. Too bad that the setup is so terrible. And I already know that a full refill is about $37, so I am wondering how long before Canon, Lexmark and HP stop charging for those printers and simply send them to us as long as we buy ink from them.

Update: the setup utility in Windows screwed up the opposite of the Mac installer: it installed itself as a printer, but didn’t enable the scanner function. Again, fixing this was dead simple: I told Windows 7 to scan for new devices and it immediately recognized it. I was able to scan from the built-in Scan/Fax utility with no issues.

Cleverbot knows the Terrible Secret of Space




In case you are wondering:

Terrible Secret of State


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dilbert comic strip for 12/26/2010 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.

Today's Dilbert is a cautionary tale to those of you that are either brand new to the work force, or are about to finish school and getting ready to join the working world: things don't make a lot of sense.
Yup. And believe it or not, this comic in particular is probably a word-by-word rehash of a real life conversation. I know because it has happened to me, even at my current job. The only relief is that none of my coworkers do this, but our customers do it all the time: they send you an email, then call you and/or leave a voice mail about it. And it doesn't click on them that if they send the email, and then call, it means you have to stop reading the tl;dr email to talk to them, which means you are not spending your time fixing whatever it is they want to complain about.
Dilbert comic strip for 12/26/2010 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How It's Made: All Day Christmas Marathon on Science Channel

If you are a geek, you probably love this show already. PJ is obsessed with it, to the point that he would rather watch it instead of cartoons.

Schedule: The Science Channel :: TV Listings :: How It's Made

Happy Birthday Jesus

Get the truck keys, Allan

A flashlight

Image via Wikipedia

With Call of Duty: Black Ops long gone back to Amazon as a weasel trade-in, and completely losing interest in Dead Rising 2 after completing overtime mode, I found myself with nothing to play until at least Christmas. I bought Fallout: New Vegas but insisted on not touching it until my Christmas vacation so I could, well, go crazy with it. That meant no game.

Luckily Amazon kept throwing some amazing specials. Alec Esoterica kindly sent me Splinter Cell: Conviction, which kept me busy for close to a week, and I scored Alan Wake for just $16. On top of that, it came with a code for the first DLC, and the second DLC went on sale for 200 points, so I snagged that too. Done.

Allan Wake is not a bad game, but it violates the social contract that keeps us games to devolve into mumbling idiots. For example, it is implied and understood that you are allowed a certain freedom whenever in a given map. Even if the game is not a sandbox, you are pretty much free to wander within the general constraints of your current goal. The game tells you to find the key, or to pick up 100 ingots, or whatever, and you are on your own. It will show something on screen so you know the active mission, and sometimes you even get a waypoint, but that’s it.

Allan Wake doesn’t do that. In Allan Wake, your character won’t shut the fuck up about what he needs to do. There is a particular scene where he needs a key, but like every gamer in the world, what you want to do is wander around a bit and make sure you can pick up some extra inventory. The problem is every 10-15 seconds Allan says “ I need to get the keys” or “I need to find the keys.”

He won’t shut the fuck up about it until you find the damn keys.

It is just stupid. There is a mission reminder on the left of the screen, right under the health and waypoint indicators. You can’t miss them, so why remind you with the spoken reminder every 15 seconds nonstop? Idiotic.

Am I getting my money’s worth? Yes, if the game costs the $16 I paid for it. I don’t think I would had been too happy to pay MSRP for it, that would had hurt really bad.

By the way, if you really want to get a headache, play Splinter Cell: Conviction (you hide in the dark, you spend a LOT of time shooting lights to make sure you have darkness to hide) and then play Allan Wake (good vs. evil conflict, you basically spend the game racing across dark areas with a lousy flashlight and never enough batteries. Light is life). It will make your head asplode.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On frustrations


Goodbye iPhonepod 3G, Hello Zune HD 64

My long deactivated iPhone 3G is on its last legs, so I decided to bail out while I had a chance. I have been using Apple iPods since the original 5GB but my iPhone experience sort of got me out of the faithful customer mindset.

I decided to go for the Zune HD 64. It is slightly smaller and lighter than the iPhone 3G, it has wireless sync, FM HD radio and on top of that it was way cheaper, about $70 or so at the time I paid for it. On top of that Amazon was all too happy to hand me a $15 coupon for MP3s.

The screen is OLED and gorgeous, the picture doesn’t do it any justice:



The casing is much thinner and feels very solid. It makes the iPhone 3G look bloated and cheap (I always hated the plastic backs of the 3G, to me the first generation iPhone will always look nicer):


Yup, one more unique dock connector to worry about, and the earphone jack is in the bottom, which makes no damn sense.




The sharp lines of the casing are very elegant, the device looks like something Sony would design.






I am not ready to write a proper review but so far it has been very interesting. It almost feels as if somebody REALLY liked, because when playing music you get this strong vibe that the designers were paying a lot of attention at the way works. I tried some games, which I liked, and surfing the net which was, well, surfing the net. The HD radio worked, which kind of surprised me since my condo is a damn faraday cage. Video play is extremely smooth.

The only thing that has been a pain in the ass is getting used to the zune software so I can re-tag and rate over a decade worth of music. And it took the zune software over 15 hours to build a dj/shuffle/whatever the hell index, luckily I started it three days ago so the sync for the first 16GB took about two hours (the machine wasn’t idle, my fault).

Epic rage guy meets my UPS anxiety disorder

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

180 calories

This is what 180 calories worth of Christmas candy look like:

There should be a law against posting nutritional values in Christmas candy packaging. It sort of defeats the purpose ...
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

VODO - Pioneer One (2010) — a series by Pioneer One

VODO - Pioneer One (2010) — a series by Pioneer One

This is a Sfi Fi show that is being produced independently, funded 100% by community donations. The disturbing thing about this show is that not only was it funded by donations, but it was premiered as a legal bit torrent download. Disturbing to the powers that be, not to us.

I saw the pilot and I loved it but felt that they would run out of money, so I was damn pleased to learn today that episode two is out. You can download both episodes (100% legally) with this link.

Could this be the solution to the curse of the Friday Night Death Slot for TV Science Fiction? Pioneer One has had over a million downloads already, and there are over 36,000 people seeding it. And yes, it is THAT good. It has really good writing and acting, the photography is great, and the special effects are at least on par to the weekly SyFy Saturday Night feature crapfest movie.

Olly Moss on Star Wars -

Olly Moss on Star Wars -

At least somebody still makes an effort at originality:

Yup, he can

12/19/2010 |

In case you didn't get the joke, try this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two weeks with the Kindle 3 WiFi


Not much really, the Kindle 3s perform exactly like our former Kindle 2s, except of course for the lack of 3G connectivity. Ivette probably had an easier time with it, in my case I kept looking for the power button in the wrong place.

The new lighted cases are really frickin nice (and the leather looks much nicer than the second generation cases), and so is having the closing band. I put velcro behind ours to keep them from straining the hooks. Ivette uses the light much more often, almost on a nightly basis.

As for the screen, it is definitely superior to the screens in the first two generations.

Battery life is incredible, even with wireless turned on. As for the lack of 3G, it is a non-issue, since I travel so little. In the remote possibility that I do hit the road, I just avoid deleting books like I used to (easier since Amazon introduced collections). In the remote possibility that I finish a book, I can read something else I got stashed. Or worst case scenario I can stop by one of the million Starbucks around here and use the AT&T WiFi for free.

Would I still recommend the Kindle 3 WiFi? Yes, as long as you are not a commuter. If you are a commuter, get the 3G. If you just like to read and mobility isn’t an issue, then there is no reason to pay extra for something you won’t use.

What about a surplus or used Kindle 2? If you can get one, go for it. There is nothing wrong with the second generation Kindle, and the free 3G service is grandfathered to the device, it is not tied to user accounts. As long as the device is alive, it’ll have free 3G until Amazon shuts them down.

And what about a Kindle 1? Sorry, but these are going to be a little long in the tooth, and the first generation screens are much more delicate.

On reading message boards …

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Goodbye Kindle 2, Hello Kindle 3 WiFi

The first of our two new Kindle 3 WiFis arrived today (the UPS driver fell asleep with the second shipment still in the truck). Our two current Kindle 2s have been sold already, sorry.

The differences are not just in the casing measurements, the new device is much thinner. One thing I am not happy about is that they removed the numbers row from the keyboard. The new paging buttons are much nicer, it takes more effort to click them which will cut down on accidental page changes.



The new cases are nicer, and they once again have an elastic band to keep it closed. I am not too happy about losing the metal badge, I always thought it was a nice touch. DSC00954


Ivette’s is pink and it looks hideous. I am sure Karla is going to flip when she sees it (and yes Karla, it comes in purple too):


The reason the new device looks taller is because the case has a hidden light. Also notice how now all of the buttons are located on the bottom of the device, while in the previous generation all you see is a reset pinhole and the USB port. You can also see a tiny bit of velcro that I added to the back, I don’t like how it is possible to tilt the device and strain the hinges that connect the device to the case AND provide electricity to the lamp.



The two Kindle 3s stacked:


The lamp is located on the top right corner, the photo is a bit misleading, in real life the lamp doesn’t overwhelm the top right corner of the device.



This is the same basic hinge design as the second generation, only these are gold plated to provide electricity to the lamp. This is the bottom hinge:



The top hinge:



Rear view of the lamp in its stored position.



Rear view of the two new cases:



The same lamp, fully extended but turned off. The lamp only works if the device is powered on and out of sleep mode.


Other differences:

  1. It loads books much faster, and page changes are faster/crisper/whatever.
  2. The web browser uses webkit, I was able to go to Amazon’s homepage from it.
  3. There is no way to tell apart the 3G from the WiFI simply by looking at them. Worse, the box doesn’t say which is which. I received one 3G today that is intended for a niece and I didn’t want to crack it open just to see if it was mine or hers. Luckily I realized that the WiFi box had a MAC address in its serial number sticker, while the 3G device had what seemed like some kind of mobile phone serial number.
  4. Setting up WiFi was simple, it could had been even faster had Amazon not deleted the numbers row from the keyboard.
  5. The lamp is turned on by pulling it out completely, there is no switch. You turn it off by pushing it back into its storage slot.
  6. The packaging of the Kindle 3 is almost identical to the one for the Kindle 2, except the box was smaller. The box for the lighted case is almost identical to the box for my black leather case for the Kindle 2.
  7. The AC plug seems to be identical to the one in the Kindle 2, but the USB chord looks like it is more pliable and probably won’t suffer from plastic rot in a month, like what happened to all four cables to both our Kindle 2s and our original Kindles.

R E O Speedwagon - Sophisticated Lady

Yup, it’s #earworm time again.

RFC: A new shopping-inspired, color-coded holiday: Brown Wednesday

Photo by William J. Grimes This is a picture o...

Image via Wikipedia

We already have:

Black Friday: Day after Thanksgiving, the start of the Christmas shopping season. This now spills into the weekend.

Pre-Black Friday: AKA, “Thanksgiving.” Yeah, people are freaking out over sales before they have finished cooking the stupid turkey.

Cyber Monday: As crazy as Black Friday, but for online sales. This year this is turning into “Cyber Week.”


Now for the new:

Brown Wednesday is the first big shipping wave from the online purchases since Thanksgiving. If you bought stuff on Black Friday, odds are you didn’t ask for Saturday shipping, so the earliest you could get them without paying an eye and a leg in shipping would be today. Expect lots of people (including myself) whining about FEDEX/UPS/USPS anxiety today.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

XBox Girls Get Revenge

And this is why I don’t play on XBL.

Turd Ferguson strikes again

According to this website, there are no less than 19 Turd Fergusons around the country. It is on the Internet, so it has to be true:



Minecraft: The Mall

My new project, glass domed park with four mall wings, three stories each, and a two-level train station. MCEdit schematics at

Friday, November 26, 2010

Make a perfect hollow sphere in Minecraft with MCEdit

(Many thanks to CJN85 for helping me with this)

Get MCEdit here. I am going to build a 21-block diameter hollow sphere. This method only works if the diameter is an odd-number.


1. Make a column, this one is 31 blocks tall.

2. The insertion point for your round brush, set to 21 blocks and with a different material than the column, is the next empty block above of the column.

3. Here's your 21-block solid sphere with its center one block above the original column.

4. I have extended the original column so it punches through the sphere. I also added two more columns through the centers so I have three columns that cross at the center of the sphere. This is why I picked an odd number for the diameter. These are also handy for moving it around later.

5. The center of the sphere, with the three columns touching.

6. I have deleted the center block and one above it.

7. This is the anchor point for my second sphere. Notice that the brush is now 19 instead of 21, which is the next smaller size. Also, I am using air for this brush.

8. My 21-block cobblestone sphere now has a 19-block air sphere inside, perfectly aligned. Notice each of the faces still show the rock columns.

9. The sphere, with the columns removed. I don’t recommend this since these are nice as guides if you are moving things around.

10. The inside of my sphere, with the columns removed.

The cool thing about this is that as long as you find the center of the first sphere, the second sphere, next odd number smaller, will make sure you get a perfect hollow shape. Since you have those nice columns protruding, it is very easy to pick half or a quadrant for cutting and pasting purposes. You could also use this to make cylinders, since all you have to do is cut one block above and bellow of one of the planes where two of the columns cross.