11.30.06

Wii Complaints

Posted in games at 10:08 pm by wingerz

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Nothing is perfect. Here are my main Wii gripes:

No controller off switch. One set of batteries is pretty much completely drained from button presses occurring while it was being transported from place to place. Lame. Fortunately, I have rechargeables. On the way back from NYC I inserted one small piece of paper between a battery and contact to prevent this.

Not enough network interaction. I’m dying to play something against Grant. Or at least to interact with him, maybe with our Miis or something. All I can do right now is email him, and he rarely replies.

Where’s Opera? I don’t know if I’d actually use this thing to browse the web, but I’d love to try it. Couldn’t they just let us use the Virtual Console store browser? It’s ok if it isn’t full-featured.

The nunchuk is wired. I understand that it needs to draw power from somewhere, but a wireless nunchuk would be awesome because the current hardware restricts movement. Then in future tennis games (maybe Mario Tennis, or whatever comes out), you could control your guy with the nunchuk while still taking full swings with the remote. I don’t mind needing an extra battery or some extra bulk (since it feels quite light). Hopefully someone will create a wireless nunchuk; doesn’t seem like it should be too hard.

Wii Tennis is simple. I know that this is the whole point of Wii Sports. But why can’t I at least pick which side to serve the ball to so that Rouben doesn’t crush the return to an unreachable location? And every reasonably coordinated gamer would appreciate an advanced mode where the D-pad controls your on-screen character’s movements (it would have taken no effort on the part of the developer).

Zelda sword-fighting isn’t great. It effectively involves waggling the controller for canned combinations. I’m not asking for 1-1 controls, but it would have been cooler if it recognized five core motions: L to R, R to L, UL to LR, UR to LL, and a forward stab. Unfortunately, the developers probably didn’t want to rewrite the code for fighting (so they probably just plugged in gestures to replace button presses). Also, the first boss is a bit on the easy side. Fortunately, the controller is great for aiming and fishing.

I am, of course, still happy to have the Wii and have been enjoying it immensely.

11.29.06

Quality Time with the Wii

Posted in games at 12:36 am by wingerz

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Now that I’ve spent a bit more time with the Wii, I can officially say that it’s awesome. Random thoughts:

Wii Sports is a lot of fun. Packing it in with the system was the smartest launch-related move that Nintendo made. It’s super-accessible and a lot of fun to play, both multiplayer and single player (when I’m alone, I tend to do the drills). Most non-gamers (like Jen’s dad, Ceida, some of the guys at work) are willing to give it a try, and end up having a lot of fun with it. Also, I suppose it’s possible to sit down and play the games with wrist flicks, but at home we’ve moved the coffee table into the hallway so that I can take full swings and improve my footwork while playing Wii Tennis.

The pointer works great. No complaints so far. This technology should be built into all TVs and devices that display on TVs. I’m sick of using a D-pad to navigate through TiVo menus. And my receiver/DVD-player remote scares the living hell out of me.

Zelda is amazing. As an added bonus, there are a ton of animals in the game.

The system is tiny. Everything fits into a very small backpack, making it easy to take to work to hook up to the projector and give demos.

It’s getting a ton of positive press. Looks like it’s going to be a mainstream item this Christmas, which should attract even more third parties to develop for it.

There’s an emotional connection. This may sound weird. The hardware looks sleek and inviting (with lots of blue lighting). The menus are tactile – the controller vibrates subtly as the pointer moves over button boundaries. Your Miis (avatars) live inside and mingle in a plaza.

It’s kind of annoying to read blog comments and forum posts from “hardcore” gamers who think the Wii is stupid (I guess these aren’t the best places to look for rational, level-headed gamers.). While I’m a Nintendo fanboy, I’m still looking forward to seeing what developers do with the PS3 and I think the Xbox360 is really hitting its stride. In any case, it makes me very happy to be able to share the joys of gaming with people who wouldn’t otherwise be interested. Instead of “These buttons lob, these buttons do regular shots, press a direction to aim a shot,” it’s “Swing it like a tennis racket.” And even though the technology isn’t particularly fancy, there’s definitely a sense of wonder and excitement when the on-screen racket makes contact with the ball. It’s magic. Nintendo is onto something big here.

11.27.06

IBM-SLRP Release

Posted in development, semantic web, technology at 4:44 pm by wingerz

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Our group at IBM Cambridge has open-sourced our Semantic Web projects. Check it out: IBM Semantic Layered Research Platform (with documentation and downloads).

Boca, our enterprise-ready RDF store, is the only component that has been officially released; others are still works in various stages of development. Matt’s post covers Boca’s most important features.

Our group has set up PlanetAdtech for Semantic Web-related blog posts (including blogs belonging to colleagues who are not on PlanetRDF). Subscribe to the feed to track our work; we’ll be releasing more components over the next few weeks.

11.24.06

A Wii, finally

Posted in games at 8:37 am by wingerz

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Jen and I came down to NYC for the Thanksgiving holiday. We’re staying at Ellen’s new place, and Jen’s parents flew over as well. It’s been great spending time with them.

Ok, onto the real story. After hearing that all of the big retailers were saving their Wii stock for Black Friday, I was a little wary of heading out to compete against other Black Friday shoppers (I heard that people started lining up at one of the nearby Best Buys last night at 10), especially because I was worried that the Liaos would think I was completely insane and obsessed with video games. But I figured that as long as I was back in time to hang out with them, they’d be fine with it.

I had heard that Toys ‘R’ Us in Times Square was opening at 5am and that they would have 1900 Wiis. Other line waiters had heard the same, but neither turned out to be true (6am, 0 Wiis). I got there at 445am and left emptyhanded at 610am. I decided to stop by the Herald Square GameStop on the way home. I was 9th in line (worrisome, because the GameStop minimum was rumored to be 8). Fortunately, two of the people were together and one wasn’t getting a Wii, so I got the 7th of 8! I used up an old gift card (thanks, Wilson for both the gift card and talking to me on the phone) to get a Wii, two controllers (their last two, but getting one more shouldn’t be hard), and Zelda.

Ellen’s new place doesn’t have a TV yet, but fortunately I planned ahead and got a GameBridge last week. It’s a device that let’s you run composite or S-video input through USB to be displayed on a laptop (or desktop) screen. I tested it with the GameCube and it works reasonably well – I even recorded some video of myself playing Baby Park. Played a few rounds of Wii Sports Tennis. I need to get some rest so that the in-laws don’t think I’m completely out of it today.

Part of the reason I went out this morning was for all of my friends who have been constantly asking me about the Wii over the past few months (and especially this past week). I felt like I owed them my best effort to get one this morning, despite losing sleep, dealing with crazed Black Friday shoppers, paying some extra sales tax, and alienating my in-laws (just kidding, hopefully they’ll still love me). This also explains why I am blogging instead of sleeping right now. So, friends, feel free to stop by to give it a try whenever you want.

(By the way, isn’t it cool that the camera picks up the Wii sensor bar signals?)
(Lee’s PS3 shipped – amazing!)
(The power adapter is 360-esque – huge.)

11.19.06

SLR Fun

Posted in photos at 11:59 pm by wingerz

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I’ve been thinking about getting a DSLR for the past few months. Over the past few days, Elias let me borrow his Rebel XT and Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM (which he is trying to sell).

Over the first few days I played around with some of the preset modes. I also took a few rough comparison shots (not really fair, since our current camera is a dinky 3mp Elph).

I spent some time over the weekend reading up on using the manual controls before snapping pictures on the river, around Harvard Square, and back at Long Pond (I’ll post those later this week).

No Wii For Me

Posted in games at 12:23 pm by wingerz

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But it wasn’t for a lack of trying this morning. Drove by several places between Somerville and Woburn starting at 6am, all of which had full-capacity lines. The bad news is that I didn’t get one. The good news is that Nintendo generated enough pre-release buzz to sell out on the first day (at least around here), so they’ve injected a ton of units into the market and generated additional hype by selling out.

Some parents I overheard this morning: “If we actually get one of these things, we’re giving it to our kids today.”

11.18.06

Least necessary email ever

Posted in games at 12:56 am by wingerz

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Received several minutes ago, from Nintendo: Nintendo’s Wii Launches November 19.

I’ll be there, bright and early!

Sorry, Bloglines

Posted in development, technology at 12:39 am by wingerz

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I’ve fully switched over from Bloglines to Google Reader. And I feel horrible about it. Now in addition to knowing about my email, Google knows what I read online. Fortunately, I’ve switched over to using Yahoo Search so they don’t know everything about my digital self. Bloglines is a nice app, and I feel bad for leaving. In the end, it came down to a few features:

  • Marking read items: Google Reader marks items as you read them. If you open up a feed with many many items and don’t want to get through them in one sitting, this is awesome. In Bloglines, once you open up a feed, all of the unread items get marked as read.
  • Lots of items: Bloglines limits the number of new entries per feed to 200. In practice I run into this rarely, but it’s still a lame restriction.
  • Viewing past entries: Google Reader lets you scroll through already-read entries, while Bloglines makes you pick a time period (like “within the last 24 hours”) for retrieving entries.

I still hate the fact that Google Reader won’t let you assign a tag to a blog when you subscribe to it through Firefox 2’s button in the address bar.

One feature that I like about both is the ability to share entries in your own feed. Google Reader lets you do it with one click (“Share”) while Bloglines opens up another window to let you write some text to go along with a marked item. Google Reader should let you do this too because sometimes it’s not clear whether you are sharing something because you agree with it or because you think it’s somewhat outrageous. In any case, I’ve set up my shared items to display in the sidebar of my blog using Simple Pie, a php library (which comes with a WordPress plugin) for parsing feeds.

When I exported my OPML file, it included the Bloglines news feed, so I can keep an eye on new features that might bring me back.

11.17.06

So close…

Posted in games at 4:08 pm by wingerz

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Lee, Sean, and I tried to get PS3’s on Costco around lunchtime. After battling through many, many error messages (including several periods where the site was functionally completely shut down), Lee finally got through and managed to place an order (we’ll see if he actually gets it). I got a PS3 into my shopping cart and tried to pay for it several times, but eventually it was removed.

Poor Costco

Posted in games at 10:12 am by wingerz

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The PS3 launch news has been absolutely ridiculous. There have been injuries, shootings, and robberies (though it makes me happy to mention that not everyone is evil). Not willing to deal with the brick & mortar launch day insanity, we were going to try to get one from Costco (for Lee and/or Ben). I don’t think Costco realized what it was getting itself into; with an hour to go their site has been up and down, and it will only get worse until 11am.

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