Friday, April 29, 2011

Breaking News: Playstation Network (PSN) is...Down...Still

Imagine you had been wanting to pick up a PS3 for a while, but could never quite rationalize it since you had a great gaming PC, XBOX 360, and Wii.  Now, imagine that you finally picked one up so you could compare DC Universe Online (DCUO) PS3 vs. PC.

You create an account on Playstation Network (PSN), because they make you before you can play.  Yet another set of credentials to memorize for yet another network.  You bite the bullet and go through the tedium once again of setting up a security question, etc.

You fire up DCUO and activate the free month of gaming that came with the game.  Now the clock is ticking on evaluating a game that you may not want to play after that month expires.

Then the PSN goes down.  A little annoying since your guy is only level 10 out of 50 (?) or so levels and you want to get as far as you can to give the game & platform combo the fairest shake possible.

Then it stays down...for over a week.

It's Too Long

Don't get me wrong.  I applaud Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) for being proactive and cautious.  They detected a dayslong intrusion...after it happened.  So they shut everything down and got busy.  I appreciate that.  I think it's vital to do the following:
  • Identify the attack vectors and shut them down
  • Conduct damage control for the breach
  • Make sure no back doors are left in the system
  • And a whole lot more
But this is not some random tech-savvy person with a server in their garage.  Well, maybe it is and I am giving SOE too much credit.  A company in a computer technology industry should be better than this.  Regardless of what their specific line of business is...
  • Sony makes hardware
  • Sony makes software
  • Sony is a very large company with a lot of resources
This should never have happened in the first place but, when it did, it should have been handled much more swiftly and expertly.  The fact that they deal in computer games with communities, ranking, and other things of high value to folks that might be hackers increases the need for vigilance.  Whether it's an identity scam operation or a brilliant, nerd raging script kiddie, SOE should be far better protected that most against such things.

They Are Being Too Pensive

I don't want them to simply tell me that my data may be compromised.  I want them to disable my account and force me to reactivate it by requesting a secure link via the e-mail tied to my account.  This should stymie most of the value of the data acquired.

The Scope of the Threat is Alarming

The comprehensive list of data endangered is staggering.  Don't they have any isolation of the data?  Is it really that easy to get at everything?  Please, break it off by into categories.  Require permissions for each component, e.g., separate billing information from log in data in a meaningful way.  Even with the gigantic snafus I have had to suffer through as a veteran, I never had this amount of data endangered.

The Damage Is Irrevocable

I am glad I don't have a huge investment in PS3 games, gear, etc.  This debacle has left me with two conclusions:
  • Don't buy any game for PS3 unless it's a PS3 exclusive.
  • If said game requires me to use the PSN, I need to strongly consider if I really want it; if not, then pass.
The inconvenience is bad enough.  The hemorrhage of personal information is intolerable.

Thankfully, most of the games that I really care about (albeit not all) are available via XBox or PC, and the ones that I am likely to play on the PS3 are generally not multi-player.

As for DCUO, you may be able to guess which version, PS3 or PC, I am probably going to recommend... ;)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Illustrated Guide: How to Make a Song Into a Ringtone (or Ring Tone) for an iPhone

OK, enough about diet and health.  Let's get some gadget discussion going.  I want to make a ringtone from the song Ceremony, by New Order.  I was hoping there would be some easy, automagical way to do it in iTunes, like "just right click on a song and choose 'turn into a ringtone', then win!"

But alas, it was not so.  Much to my surprise.  I really thought iTunes would have a capability to convert a song right into a ringtone.  Oh well.

I poked around on the interwebs and found this video that shows how to do this for 2G and 3G phones, but the methodology seemed like it was still applicable.  The problem was that to execute it, I needed a music editor.  After trying three highly-rated ones from CNET, I searched for iPhone 4-specific information and found this older, but much better, video of how to create a ringtone using only iTunes.

In case you do not want to watch the video, here is the summary:

NOTE: Remember you can click on any image to see the original size if the text is too small.

Create an AAC File of Your Desired Music Snippet

Open iTunes, select a song in your Music library, and then right click on it and choose Get Info.

In side the Get Info window, click on the Options tab and check the boxes for Start Time and Stop Time.  Make sure the total time is no more than 40 seconds. I decided to go with the first 40 seconds for the following example.  Again, you are not hurting the music file, just telling it to only pay attention to the first 40 seconds for now:

OK, so at this point you want to take a snapshot of the piece of music.  To do this, we close the Get Info window and then choose the Create AAC Version option, as shown below:

Create a Ringtone File From the Snippet

Click this and you should create a duplicate of that snippet of music.  You should now have two files for that song, one with the original duration and one with the shorter duration you just determined, as follows:

Now, simply drag this snippet to the Desktop.  This will create a duplicate.  You need to change the extension, so if you have "Hide extensions for known file types" checked in your Folder and Search Options, which is the default, then you will need to go uncheck it.  You can do this from any folder by clicking on Organize, then Folder and search options, and then clicking the View tab.  When you get there scroll down to "Hide extensions for known file types" and uncheck it, as shown below:

Now, just rename the file extension from ".m4a" to ".m4r".  You can also change the file name at this point if you like.  You will get the usual warning that this may make the file unstable, just click "OK" and accept the change.

Now you have a ringtone file.  In Windows 7, this immediately changes the icon for the file to reflect the word "Ring" on it.

Move the Ringtone to the iTunes Library

This step is easy, just drag the Ringtone file over the word "Library" in the iTunes menu an drop it there.

Note: If you do not have a Ringtones library yet, it will create one automatically when you do this.

Wrap Up

A few steps to finish
  1. Restore: Go back to the original song and uncheck the boxes for Start time and Stop time.
  2. Clean up: Go back to your iTunes Music folder and delete the snippet of music that you used to create the ringtone.
  3. Sync with your iPhone so it has the ringtone
  4. Set your ringtone for whatever you like

Thank you to mattzo72 for creating such a useful and informative video.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Decaffeination Disparities

So, let's say you want a high source of flavonoids, without sugar. As a result, you decide you want to drink green tea, but you want to avoid the caffeine.

Well, as I mentioned in my other post, there are some options for reducing caffeine:
  • Steep for a shorter time - but this will likely reduce your flavonoids more than your caffeine, defeating the purpose; and the bulk of the caffeine is released rather quickly
  • You can use bags instead of loose leaves, but you might get less flavonoids
  • You can use Hojicha, a roasted tea that has less caffeine but significantly less flavonoids
  • You can buy decaf
And that last bit brings us to today's post.

So, we know already that typical decaf tea has about a third of the flavonoids of regular tea, so unless you want to down eight or nine cups a day, that may not be ideal.  This begs the question - are there any processes for decaffeinating that do not wipe out the flavonoids?  Maybe.

The CO2 Decaffeination Process

They also call this the "effervescent" decaffeination process.  Salad, whoops, I mean Salada Green Teas claim that they get their tea "99.6% caffeine free" and "the 'carbon dioxide process' or the 'effervescent process' (same thing), which preserves about 90% of the catechins."

But hey, the Redco folks received a warning letter from the FDA for some of the claims they make on their web site, which calls into question how good of a source they really are.

Other tea sites make similar claims, though, so let's say it's true.

The other method I hear commonly cited is an "ethyl acetate" method, which it appears is the one resulting in the loss of 2/3 of the flavonoids.

The Other Shoe

Of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, those antioxidants may not make it into the blood stream in significant amounts.  So, it might be irrelevant and your green tea may simply be just another vehicle for caffeine, albeit a smaller amount.  On top of this, most of the health benefits cited are from epidemiological studies (e.g., out of a group of people, 20% more of those who drove red cars got cancer, ergo, red cars may increase your chance of cancer); I take such results with a grain of salt.

UPDATE:  Some studies have shown cases in which antioxidants might even be bad for you.

Final Thought

So, if you believe flavonoids are good for you, green tea is your vehicle of choice, and you want to take in as little caffeine as possible, then I recommend looking for teas that are decaffeinated with the CO2 process.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getting the Caffeine Monkey Off Your Back (Or How I Quit Caffeine)

Note: if you are looking for decaf options, check out my post, titled Decaffeination Disparities; not all decafs are created equal.

I got the caffeine monkey off of my back almost two years ago now.  Don't get me wrong, I occasionally have some caffeine, usually in form of decaffeinated tea (it's not zero caffeine, just a lot less).  That said, I currently try to consume less than a tenth of what most of my fellow Americans are consuming.

The Mayo clinic cited 200-300 mg/day as a healthy amount; they say 500-600 mg/day is when you are getting to unhealthy levels.  I believe that their data is probably skewed by the fact that the vast majority of Americans take in a lot of caffeine and, given the physiological effects/modification that result, are probably more tolerant/desensitized.  As such, I think that those numbers are actually probably high for a healthy person that does not consume caffeine regularly.

Around 100 mg is generally considered the amount where you would see a clinical effect.  After almost two years of little to no caffeine, I can feel a distinct effect from as little as 30-40 mg of caffeine.

I usually have no caffeine in a given day and, when I do, it's in the form of decaffeinated tea or a small amount of regular iced tea, and never after lunch time.  That has contributed to a much higher quality of life for me.  I used to have the occasional migraine, which is what catalyzed my experiment with quitting caffeine.  I have not had one migraine since I "quit" caffeine.

It's hard to get an avid caffeine-drinker to understand.  Hell, the soda-chugging me of yesteryear would probably not understand me.  And a lot of that disconnect comes from self-rationalization of what we like to do, with a healthy does of the human impulse to correlate data even when it is an incorrect correlation, the same kind of thing that leads to superstition.

When I get up in the morning, the only thing I need is a glass of water, I am not held hostage to caffeine.  I am less stressed/anxious.  My sleep cycle is more regular and normal.  And I feel a lot more coherent than when I was an avid consumer of caffeine.  I highly recommend it.

Honing The Caffeine Blade

One nice outcome of this is that if I actually need to stay up, I can drink a single cup of tea or can of soda and it will actually be enough to keep me up for hours past my regular bed time.  So, for me, caffeine has once again become an effective tool when the need arises.

If You Quit, Give It Time

But if you do try it, don't sabotage the result by quitting early.  It will take a long time for you to truly adjust.  I would argue that until you have been off of it for a year, you can't really judge.  And, of course, you will probably have to train yourself to start drinking more water.  For many folks, much, if not most, of what they drink is a caffeinated beverage and when they stop, they just eliminate that beverage entirely.  Be sure you are drinking a healthy amount of water.

How much water is a healthy amount?  Here is a Mayo Clinic page on that topic, as it varies.  All I can say is be sure not to count alcoholic or caffeinated beverages in your tally.  Because of their diuretic effects, it's best to simply not count them as part of your water intake.

Wean or Cold Turkey?

I highly recommend weaning.  Just dial back your caffeine each day.  Cut it by 1/2, 1/3, or 1/4 each day, whatever works for you.  Pay attention to your body.  If you start getting headaches, get into a foul mood, or lose mental clarity, consider having a small amount to take off the edge.

Final Thoughts

Monkeys can be cute and funny, but there's nothing funny about a monkey on your back, especially when your back starts to smell like monkey scrotum.

Do the math, think about your health and your dependence of caffeine, and if you feel it's right for you, join me in the land of little caffeine. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WTH Are Flavonoids? Should You Care?

Flavonoids sound more like a 1950s space monster invading our planet to take our women, but it turns out they are just a reputedly healthy group of naturally-occurring polyphenols found in certain foods.  Now, to be clear, those results are from epidemiological studies, which some might describe as voodoo.  So, I take such results with a grain of salt.

First, if you want Flavonoids, what is the best dietary source?

Is Green Tea Really The Most Flavonoidtastic Choice?

Well, that is an interesting question.  Aside from green tea, some commonly-discussed sources are citrus, red wine, and dark chocolate.  You can run comparisons of the content and, depending on the source and specific product chosen, you will likely find data suggesting that red wine has as much as twice as many flavonoids per mL than green tea and 71% cocoa dark chocolate (the most plentiful chocolate source) five times as much.

But green tea lets you intake flavonoids without taking in sugars and if 197 mL of red wine is enough to achieve produce health benefits (a generous glass of wine), then three cups of green tea a day should easily achieve the same effect without the sugar or intoxication.  For a daily routine, this makes green tea a pretty good deal.

And sorry, chocoholics, you only need 59 g of the 71% cocoa dark chocolate per day to achieve health benefits, which is approximately one small bar.  Also, that small bar probably contains around 80 mg of caffeine (depending upon how it is manufactured), which puts it on par with the daily amount you would get from a healthy amount of green tea.

So, What Flavor Suits You?

It comes down to what comes along for the ride, nutritionally-speaking.  Red wine will bring sugar and alcohol.  Green tea will bring caffeine.  Chocolate will bring caffeine and sugar.
  • No sugar = green tea
  • No caffeine = red wine
  • I want choco! = dark chocolate

    Lots of Wiggle Room

    Not all flavonoid sources are created equal.  Web pages have a variety of information, but let's see what the USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods, Release 2.1 has to tell us.  For example, let us consider the caffeine content of 100 mL of brewed green tea:
    • Total Mean: 133 mg
    • Total Min:14 mg
    • Total Max: 484 mg
    Now, of course, that may be artificially extreme, as one tea may not have the maximum value for all flavonoids at once.  But still, it is a strong message of "your mileage may vary."

    Should You Care About Flavonoids?

    Aside from being a healthy excuse to drink wine and eat chocolate, what use are flavonoids?  There are claims of antioxidant capabilities that may reduce cancer incidence.

    To be honest, I am not overly impressed.  If you are consuming the above foods to get flavonoids, then you may be wasting your time.  When you dig deeper, the studies tend to be epidemiological correlations, which are not the most robust thing.

    For example:
    1. Ask a bunch of people how much green tea they drink
    2. Look at what diseases they have
    3. Compare the incidence of disease to the consumption rate and look for correlations
    4. Report those correlations
    Let's say that you find a correlation that people that drink green tea are less likely to die of some cancer.  So, you open up a lot of questions, like:
    • Is the drinking of green tea the relevant data point or is it some other thing that is common among people that drink green tea?
    • How honest/accurate where the respondents?
    • How robust is the result?
    A lot of the data is based on in vitro (essentially, in a petri dish) experiments.  While I wish it were not true, experimental accuracy declines as you go from human test to animal tests to in vitro tests.

    This quote from the WebMD page on coffee does a good job of concisely saying what I mean:
    Researchers don't ask people to drink or skip coffee for science's sake. Instead, they ask them about their coffee habits. Those studies can't show cause and effect. It's possible that coffee drinkers have other advantages, such as better diets, more exercise, or protective genes.
    To give a more visceral example, let's consider the myth that you can cure drunkenness with coffee.  How did that start?  Well, in The world of caffeine: the science and culture of the world's most popular drug, the authors suggest that simply displacing a steady diet of beer contributed to this.  They report records of German sailors routinely downing three gallons of beer each day.

    So, imagine the German sailor of yesteryear who simply started drinking coffee or tea instead of some or all of that beer.  They would probably lose weight and be less likely to die of complications of alcohol.  Oh, and be less drunken.  Did the coffee protect them or simply take the edge off of their excessive consumption of beer, thereby avoiding many problems?  And therein lies the problem.

    Are There Flavonoids In Them Thar Guts?

    Having lots of antioxidants in a substance does not necessarily mean that if you consume it, you will have similar amount appear in your blood stream.  The European Food Safety Administration reported the following in 2010:

    On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of the food(s)/food constituent(s) evaluated in this opinion and a beneficial physiological effect related to antioxidant activity, antioxidant content, or antioxidant properties.
    On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of the food(s)/food constituent(s) evaluated in this opinion and the protection of body cells and molecules such as DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage.
    If you like conflicting data, check out this line from the Wikipedia page on the Health Effects of Tea (note I am not saying Wikipedia is self-conflicting; they are merely, and rightly, reporting conflicting data):
    One study[58] shows that green tea reduced the severity of rheumatoid arthritis in rats; however another study[59] shows that tea increases the risk for rheumatoid arthritis by 78% for heavy drinkers and by 40% for occasional drinkers.
    So, yeah, not the rock solid cause and effect data I would prefer to see.  Heck, some of the positive mental effects may simply come down to those people liking a hot cup of tea and/or the stabilizing benefits of the daily ritual of making and consuming it.

    Final Thoughts

    This leaves even more of a mystery as to why someone would want you to add green tea to every meal.

    So, should you seek out flavonoids?  Well, if it will cause you to displace something unhealthy, i.e., drinking green tea instead of a gallon of beer, then heck yeah!  But should you make a point of getting the flavonoids?  Meh, I am not so sure.

    And if I do want flavonoids, I think I'd rather go with red wine. :)

      Tuesday, April 19, 2011

      Caffeine - Have You Ever Done the Math?

      Ah Dune.  I enjoyed the book trilogy, the board game, the movie (both the long and short versions), and TV series.  And this mantra is burned into my brain:
      It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
      It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed,
      The lips acquire stains.
      The stains become a warning.
      It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. 
      Hmm, sound familiar?  Let's try some word substitution:
      It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
      It is by the juice of caffeine that thoughts acquire speed,
      The head suffers migraines.
      The migraines become a warning.
      It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
      OK, so maybe you have never had a migraine.  I started having them toward the end of graduate school.  However, when I did have them, there was always some mitigating circumstance that I could use to rationalize the cause as being anything but my beloved caffeine.
      • "It was pretty hot out there, I probably got too much sun."
      • "I haven't drank much since [insert time] I am probably just dehydrated."
      • "I didn't sleep well."
      • "Maybe I am coming down with something."
      And so on...

      Then one day I decided to quit caffeine.  I very carefully weened myself down to no caffeine.  It was really difficult and it took months before I truly felt I was free of it.  Even then, every time I went to lunch I felt like a former alcoholic in a bar.  The iced tea and sodas (my poison of choice way back when) looked so inviting...

      Well, after I was sure I was free of its grip, I started allowing myself to drink it again, but I did so with by treating it like alcohol, something I drink infrequently and try not to make a habit of it.  I only drank it in moderation - no more than about two servings and never more than 100 mg or so of caffeine (that's approximately 2 cans of Diet Coke) in a day.

      Additionally, because of the half-life of caffeine, I try not to have any after lunch.  The typical half-life is 4-5 hours*, so that gives you plenty of time to clear it out of your system (mostly) in time for bed.

      * - this can increase dramatically on certain medications, especially some contraceptives.

      Then I tried a diet change that called for green tea at each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and caffeine re-entered my life.  Like most people, I thought the caffeine would be negligible because of conventional wisdom regarding green tea.

      A Little Is Way More Than Zero

      While many folks have heard that green tea is low in caffeine, it is important to note that green tea is low with respect to common caffeinated beverages, which tend to be pretty high.  But a "small" amount of caffeine is a lot when you are not a caffeine junkie.

      Anyway for the dietary experiment, I grabbed a green tea someone had bought as a gift, broke the seal on the package, and made some for breakfast.  Low and behold, about an hour later, I felt the juice of Sapho, I mean caffeine, taking effect.  That surprised me.

      It was time to do some research.

      How Much Caffeine is in Green Tea?

      Green Tea can contain roughly 2.5-6 mg/oz (if you have better data, please let me know).

      I was surprised to find that a typical cup of tea, which is a mere 6 oz., could contain as much as 40 mg of caffeine, which is on par with a 12 oz. soda.  That's right, twice the caffeine of a soda, ounce for ounce.  Sure, it's about half the content of typical [black] tea, and about a third or fifth of the content of brewed coffees, but, again, that is all relative.

      When you knock back a cup at each meal, then you are taking in as much as 120 mg (probably less if it's from tea bags, as mine was), which is a lot more than zero.  And if you are not currently a caffeine junkie, it is apparently enough to keep you awake at night...blogging...about caffeine content.

      Getting the Good Without the Bad or Ugly

      So, let's say you really want those flavonoids, but want to minimize your caffeine; what can you do?  Supplements may get you the flavonoids you seek but I an not a big fan of artificial stuff like that.  I would rather have the natural, unprocessed source.

      You might think decaf green tea is the solution...well, it's not as good as you might have thought.  It turns out that the healthy stuff in green tea is significantly reduced by the typical decaffeination process.  Don't feel bad, I too hoped it would be my silver bullet.*

      * - since writing this post, I have learned of another decaffeination process that preserves almost all of the flavonoids, as explained in this post.

      And you may be ready to point out that Hojicha is low in caffeine, then I will counter with the fact that the roasting process that reduces the amount of caffeine also reduces the amount of catechins (one of the reputedly beneficial components of green tea).

      What about steeping time?  Well, caffeine is drawn out of tea pretty quickly.  The vast majority of it is coaxed out in the first minute of steeping.  On the other hand, some sources describe it taking as much as five minutes to fully reap the rewards of green tea.

      Some sources say that using a tea bag instead of loose leaf reduces caffeine.  But given that all of the other caffeine-reducing processes and tricks also reduce the health benefits, I have to wonder if a teabag is an unhealthy idea.

      Sidenote: The Art of Self-Delusion

      While trying to find out more about green teas, I stopped at a Whole Food.  I figured that the hippie of chain grocery stores would know.  Humorously enough, they did not.  In fact, the conversation turned easily to a discussion in which the staff member helping me was staring in disbelief as I laid out the math and explained to him that even though he was not a "soda head" the amount and type of coffee he was taking in each day had the caffeine content of half a gallon of soda.  This was more interesting because his first comment on the topic was, "yeah, I don't drink much caffeine".

      In fact, he was easily putting down 300 mg a day.

      I feel like our perception of caffeine is skewed by our infatuation with it.  For example, the Mayo Clinic describes 200-300 mg per day as healthy and unlikely to cause any negative effects; for that, according to them, you need to take in more than 500-600 mg per day.

      And yet, here I am hours past my bedtime, after a grueling workout and a typical workday, restless, and blogging, with no more than 120 mg taken in this day.  I guess I can't blame Mayo.  How many people show up for clinical studies in the US that have been 100% clean of caffeine for a long enough period of time to reset their sensitivity back to what it probably should be?  I suspect it is a very tiny minority, given the looks of shock and disbelief I get when I recount the tale of quitting caffeine.

      A Healthy Problem

      So, you might want to do that math and be sure you are not oblivious to how much caffeine you ingest.  I think the Mayo clinic guidelines are too generous, personally, but then again, if your study participant spends most of their life jacked up on caffeine, then maybe that 200-300 mg is healthy for them.  I would personally shoot for trying to stay below 100 mg, but then again, I am trying to avoid having caffeine significantly affect my mood, activity level, etc.

      As for the folks that want their green tea, do they develop a tolerance of caffeine all over again?  Switch to supplements?  Switch to decaf green tea? Or maybe  just blow off the green tea altogether.  With so many of these studies being coming from epidemiology (this group of people exhibit some healthy thing, and they also happen to drink more tea), maybe it's not worth chasing.

      I am not sure, but thankfully, I am finally getting tired.  So, time to post and try to sleep once again.

      Whatever you do, take a moment and do the math.  If you have migraines, consider trying to wean yourself off of caffeine for about six months and see what happens.  But don't forget to drink water.

      Monday, April 18, 2011

      DC Universe Online (DCUO) PS3 or PC?

      DC Universe Online is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) where players assume the role of newly super-empowered people in the DC Comics universe.  One distinctive aspect of it is that is an MMORPG that is available on the PC as well as PS3.

      When I learned about this, the first thing that came to mind for me was, which platform is better?

      The Word on the "Street"

      Poking around on the interwebs turned up little of use.  PS3 users thought PS3 was the best idea.  PC users favored PC.  TenTonHammer has a cute graphic decision tree to help you make the right choice for you.  It is actually pretty enlightening.  By paying attention, you start to appreciate some of the things you might not have considered beyond the obvious question of whether or not you owned a PS3 (or were willing to get one):
      1. Do you want to play this on a console controller or via mouse and keyboard?
      2. Is the TV available enough for an MMORPG? 
      3. Are you prepared for in-game communication?
      These are pretty important considerations, because MMORPGs are, if nothing else, very time-intensive.  As a result, you should use peripherals that will be comfortable for you.  For most folks that game a lot on a PC, "going carpal" is not such a big consideration, they have played many a twitchy game on PC.  I know folks that have only played Halo on PC.

      TV use can be a big one too.  If you are really going to take advantage of having a console hooked up to a TV for the big flashy experience, be sure that your many hours of play will not be an issue for others.

      Communication can be an issue.  Do you have an appropriate headset and mic?  If you are on the PS3, do you have a keyboard?  And since Sony is so stingy with their cords*, do you need wireless?

      * - a 1-meter cord for my controller?!  Really?!

      MMO Means Social

      OK, so maybe you have your headset and keyboard ready to go.  Are you ready to communicate MMO style?  MMORPGs are more social than a lot of games and long-time MMORPG players rely on a mixture of voice and text communication. 

      Part of this stems from the typical voice chat, which works like a military radio.  One person talks at a time if everyone is going to understand.  That can get increasingly difficult as your group grows beyond two people and even with two people, the talking over each other, due to typical network latencies, can be taxing on one's patience.

      Hence the mixture of voice and text.  While someone is talking on voice chat, you have a way to bang out some comments in a text chat channel without talking over them.  It's really quite valuable to have those options.

      And now we get to the subtle point.  If you are not using a keyboard and mouse to play the game, there is going to be some awkwardness with typing out information.

      This is Your Side of the Playground, This is Mine

      Remember, this is an MMO.  The salient benefit of this game is the ability to cooperatively play with your friends.  The content will get old and you'll probably find holes in the PvP mechanics.  However, if you are there for something to do with your friends other than play another FPS (first person shooter), then you actually need those friends to be able to play with you.

      Unfortuantely, the accounts for PS3 and PC are separate.

      Which begs the question - do all of the friends you ever plan to play with in DCUO own the same system on which you plan to play?

      I Am Going to Try Both

      Yep, you read correctly.  I am curious to see how they compare.  Wish me luck. :)

      Sunday, April 17, 2011

      Why Start This Blog?

      Yet another blog begins.

      What (is the blog about)?

      I am a thinker.  I can't help but think really hard about things.  It's generally more of a curse, but folks like to pay me for thinking, so I am a functional thinker.

      It's not just simple curiosity either, because I can blow off all sorts of unknown things if they are not pertinent to my current train of thought.  In fact, when the thinking gets rolling, it can be quite consuming.  I can very easily slip into "absent-minded professor" mode, feverishly pursuing a goal or concept.  This is not just limited to ideas, but, for this venue, thoughts are going to be the focus.

      The thoughts I do pursue tend to be about a wide variety of topics of interest. I can become very focused on a thought and pursue it with a passion, even if I am not normally an enthusiast.  It's sort of like a very intense and short-lived "geeking out" on a specific topic. Hence, "binge thinking".

      I guess you could call it a meme sprint, borrowing from the world of agile development, with a smidgen of poetic license, or perhaps a geek spasm, for comic relief.

      The goal of this blog is to not only provide a venue for writing about my thoughts, but also, hopefully, to present information and observations that could be useful to others.  For me, this is nothing new; back when I first dipped my toe into the internet, it was to create web pages that were essentially a multi-faceted FAQ covering topics raised by friends, family, and my own random thoughts.

      I maintained a popular blog for a hobby for a few years and came to appreciate the value of blog posts and their potential to contribute in a positive way, as opposed to simply creating noise or a cult of personality.  Here we go!