July 2004 Archives


Just a quick warning for you if you by one of the new Click-Wheel iPods and an AppleCare warranty to cover your battery - you will need to call Apple to activate your coverage. Seems they haven't yet updated the automated system to recognize the serial numbers for the new iPods yet.


Real v. Apple - Who Wins?


RealNetworks Rankles Apple With Software

Seems a lot of news agencies have been putting their own spins on this news, but what it boils down to is RealNetworks using backdoor IP thievery to weasel their way into (1) the news, and (2) Apple's pocketbook.

First things first, the only reason Real had to basically hack Apples AAC file format was because they themselves do not support the universal MP3 file format that most people are familiar with and use on a regular basis to freely move files to and from their iPod. True, people who download their music from iTunes are using Apple's AAC format, but most of the people who know what they're doing immediately burn those to a CD, then extract them as MP3s, so they can do with them what they will.

At least they're not pulling a Sony here - their newest audio player supposedly does not even support MP3 playback at all, and requires files to be in Sony's (surprise!) proprietary format.

But still, Real of all people should understand that hacking into and appropriating another company's technology isn't the smartest thing to do in this day and age of RIAA lawsuits and the DMCA! So why would they intentionally and blatantly reverse-engineer the codec used by the single largest digital audio player in the market? Simple - attention. Real's been a half-assed, has-been player in the online audio market for years. Both Microsoft and Apple have handed Real defeat after defeat, and their RealAudio format, once the cutting edge of both audio and video online, now looks sad and pathetic compared to the other options out there.

Shame on you, Real...if this had been done the other way, you'd already have your lawyers in court. I really hope Apple will sue your pants off, but you'll probably just force them into a licensing agreement, now that you sprung the bombshell on the community. Real classy. Really. I mean it.

Who Wants to be a Superhero?

Okay, I finally caved and bought City of Heroes, the superhero MMORPG. Playing it has brought back some rather fond memories of the Marvel Superheroes pen & paper RPG from TSR (now WOTC, back in the day.

I must say that I've had more fun in the past week or so playing this game than I have in such a short time with any of the other MMORPGs that I've played and/or tested: Star Wars Galaxies, Horizons: Empire of Istaria, Everquest, and Ultima Online.

The only other MMORPG that I've had even close to this much fun with was Star Wars Galaxies, but that was mostly because of the combination of the setting (c'mon, what Star Wars geek can pass up the chance to run into Luke, Han, C-3PO, and Darth Vader??) and the sheer variety of non-linear character progression options. But, lacking anything even resembling a background storyline, SWG got old after a few months, and I cancelled the whole thing before I reached the 6-month period I'd originally subscribed for.

Surprisingly, I actually miss some of the crafting that I've done in other MMORPGs. City of Heroes is pretty much a fighting-oriented game (as you'd expect from a comic book-based game!), and aside from combining "Enhancements" to make them more powerful, there's nothing even resembling crafting in the game. Which is good, in that you go out, kick some ass, then kick some more ass. But it's a little limiting, in that all you can really do is kick ass and socialize.

Not sure how long the game will keep my interest - I'm having a lot of fun making different characters with different combinations of skills, and the variety of baddies to fight is so far pretty decent. They also have some pretty good storylines underlying the game itself, and are planning an expansion (City of Villains) that will introduce PvP abilities into the game. If done right, this should make CoH one of the best MMORPGs out there, particularly for those of us without 10-12 hours a day to spend playing around online (well, in a game at least).

Of course, what happens once Worlds of Warcraft finally arrives from Blizzard is anyone's guess. Given that CoH is a $15/month cost, and WoW will likely have a similar price structure, it'll eventually come down to a knock-down, drag-out fight for my MMORPG budget (which, with the new house, will be minimal)...and the idea of being a dwarven rogue/smith is pretty damned attractive to me right now.

Mack The Knife -> Threepenny Opera -> Beggar's Opera

One of my favorite classic lounge songs of all time has got to be "Mack The Knife" by Bobby Darin, (though Robbie Williams does a great version on Swing When You're Winning). Many, many have recorded versions of this song, but even Frank Sinatra described Bobby's version as "definitive" -- and that's saying a lot coming from Ol' Blue Eyes himself!

However, I must admit to a large deal of ignorance around the history of the song - where it came from, who MacHeath is, etc. So this morning I finally decide that I'm going to do some research on it, after hearing it on my new iPod here at work. Come to find out it's actually got some interesting roots to it.

MacHeath refers to the lead character in Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, written and composed in 1928. "Mack The Knife" is a loose rendition of the opening song of this play, "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" - as adapted by none other than Louis Armstrong himself.

But it doesn't stop there...The Threepenny Opera is itself based upon a 1728 operatic satire, The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay. It is believed that this opera played a large part in opening the way for those masters of operatic satire, Gilbert & Sullivan.

So, next time you watch The Simpsons and see Sideshow Bob singing the entire score from The H.M.S. Pinafore, you can make the link to 50s lounge music.


Okay, I finally broke down and picked up an iPod last week, after Apple's announcement of the 4G units. I've been debating for months between the 20GB iPod and the 20GB Rio Karma, but with the price drop on the 20GB from $399 to $299, it was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Originally ordered it online last Monday, since I figured supplies might be short (Apple's been known to short-ship items in the past). By Wednesday, the order hadn't shipped, so I called the local Apple Store and found out they had them in stock. Quickly cancelled my online order (and sacrificed the free engraving - whoopie!!), and scooted over to the mall after work.

Only had it for less than a week, but I like it quite a bit. Have some issues working with iTunes, but they're pretty minor. Wish I had a good synchable calendar and contacts program - maybe Apple will export their contact/calendar programs to the PC next?

A little buyer's remorse set in late last week when I found out that the 40GB comes with its own dock (something i had to pay an extra $39 for with the 20GB), cutting the price difference between the two to only $60. If you have the choice, go with the 40GB - I also found out that my entire MP3 collection would fit on the 40GB (not sure what that says about my collection), but I don't really listen to it all at once, and I'm guessing there's probably 50% of the music there that I couldn't care any less about if I tried.

It's Official - "Revenge of the Sith"

According to reports from the San Diego ComiCon International this past weekend, Lucasarts has made the official announcement that Star Wars: Episode III will in fact be subtitled "Revenge of the Sith". Ack!

While it does tie in well with the sub for Episode VI: "Return of the Jedi", I find that only the most devoted fan can find the relationships between Eps I & II and Eps IV and VI:

"The Phantom Menace" v. "A New Hope"
"The Empire Strikes Back" v. "Attack of the Clones"
"Revenge of the Sith" v. "Return of the Jedi"

Rather than trying to tie them together in this haphazard form, "Rise of the Empire" would (in my not-so-humble opinion) have been a better choice. Then, we'd have:

"The Phantom Menace" -> "Attack of the Clones" -> "Rise of the Empire" -> "A New Hope" -> "The Empire Strikes Back" -> "Return of the Jedi"

I think that's a much better progression over the course of all the movies. But I'm just a fan...

Speaking of Episode III, there are rumors about a "twist" in the movie regarding Darth Sidious and Chancellor Palpatine...considering that everyone has been assuming that they are one and the same, I'm betting that they're not. Either Chancellor Palpatine is a clone of Sidious, or Sidious somehow takes over Palpatine's position. Either way, while it won't be at the level of "Luke, I am your father..." (immediately followed by a loud, whiny "Noooooooooo!"), it should be interesting, and might actualy redeem Lucas in the eyes of many fans, if he's able to pull it off.

Server's Moved!!

Since I'm moving to a new place next month, and my budget no longer will support the $70+ a month I'm spending on my DSL line right now, I decided to bail on the whole personal-hosting solution and move everything on this site and my others to a commercial webhost (DreamHost). Now I'll get a cable modem in the new place, and be much happier with my 3k downspeed!

So, for the time being, there may be some bumps in the road on my sites; I'll attack them as I find 'em, and everything should be perfectly happy again by the end of the month!