September 30, 2007

Halo 3

I wasn't planning on buying Halo 3 because I never played Halo 1 or Halo 2, but after reading a few good reviews I decided to go ahead and get it. I was amazed to see that it generated $170 Million in the first 24 hours. Granted that is pre-orders (I ordered mine a few days before it came out) and all walk up sales the first day. But damn, $170M divided by $60 per game comes out to 2.83 M games in the first 24 hours. As I'm sitting here about to start a multiplayer game, there are 474,419 halo 3 gamers online. This game hasn't even been out a week yet. Yikes! The geek side of me wants to know how they are doing the infrastructure for this because it has to be amazing. So the question is what do I think so far? I think it is a good game and I would recommend it IF you like games where you run around and kill stuff. I happen to but just that kind of gamer. The single player campaign mode is pretty good, the gameplay is solid and the graphics are good. The part that separates Halo 3 from other games like it are the multiplayer games. Here are the different options:

Matchmaker - Multiplayer kill 'em all sessions are where the system automatically matches you up with players of similar experience and skill. They don't go into details about the algorithm they use to do this, but from playing several multiplayer games I can vouch for it being pretty good.
Custom Games - You set the rules, types of games, and the players that can get in. I haven't done anything with this yet because I'm still just trying to get used to the controls and everything else that comes with the game, but in theory this is also pretty cool.
Forge - Customize the game map itself. Put weapons and other goodies anywhere you want. Save and share. Makes a great combo with Matchmaker and Custom games.
Theater - Really cool thing that records the entire game that you play. If you are playing multiplayer you can go back and watch the game again from other players' perspective or from any angle. You can then save video clips or screenshots. The screenshot included in this posting is from me playing in solo mode on the campaign. I'm the driver and I'm looking at the camera as the guy with the turret blows away some bad guys.

Overall Halo 3 is a great game and would recommend it. Even if you beat the solo campaign mode pretty quickly you will literally get years of great multiplayer game action out of this game. And the ability to save video and still clips put this game over the top. Finish the fight!

Posted by troutm8 at 10:12 PM

WII Finally Have A WII

About a week ago Timber decided that it was finally time to try and get a Nintendo Wii. We had heard from people that Best Buy puts out the new shipments of Wiis first thing on Sunday morning. So we decided to head to Best Buy on Sunday morning and try our luck. We saw on the website that they open at 11 AM on Sundays. I also took the step to call around 10:15 AM to see if they were open, but the recording said that they were closed, and that they open at 10 AM on Sundays. Huh? You're closed right now, at 10:15 AM, yet you open at 10 AM on Sundays? At any rate we high tailed it to Best Buy and sure enough they do open at 10 AM on Sundays. We saw people walking out of the store with lots of goodies and we were dreading the possibility that they were all walking out with Nintendo Wiis. So we rushed into the store, went straight back to the video game section, and then didn't see any. So I asked a salesperson who told me to go up to the front and ask for them. When we got up there and asked the guy said they had two left. We said we wanted one, and were happy to see a few seconds later a real bonafide Nintendo Wii in the box. Woohoo! He asked if we wanted any games to go with it and we said yes, but I asked if we should buy the Wii now and go back to get the games and buy them separately or if they could hold it for us up front while we picked out some games. He said that it wouldn't be a problem to hold the Wii for us, and I was a little worried and wanted to tell him my name and Timber's name so he would remember us, but figured I shouldn't worry and ran to the back to pick up the games. We got the Wii Play game which game with an extra controller and an extra nunchuck. When we went back up to the front we put our stuff on the counter and the guy rang the stuff up and said that the total was $75. We stammered a little bit and said we wanted the Wii with that stuff and he gave us a questioning look and said he wasn't sure if they have any more Wii's in stock. I kind of laughed and gave a groan and said that I thought he put a Wii under his counter for us. He looked down and gave a surprised look to see that there was in fact a Wii under the counter. He happy rang us up and we were out of there. It was literally 5 minutes between the time he put our Wii under the counter and the time we came back to buy it. But we got it home, set it up, and the rest has been history.

Posted by troutm8 at 09:30 PM

Dio's First Baseball Game

A few weeks ago Timber and I met up with her parents and nephew Dio at an Oakland A's baseball game. It was Dio's first baseball game ever, and he got decked out in A's gear and seemed to have a great time. I had fun getting him to clap when the visiting team made good plays which probably made the people around us mad, but hey, it's all good fun. Next on our list for Dio are the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Children's Discovery Museum in downtown San Jose.

Posted by troutm8 at 09:05 PM

September 18, 2007

AC100 Race

Over the weekend Timber and I went down to Pasadena to watch and support Rocky in his running of the Angeles Crest 100 mile endurance run. That's right, I said 100 mile endurance run. It starts out in Wrightwood and winds its way through the San Gabriel mountains to Pasadena. We met up with Jackie and then saw Rocky at a few of the checkpoints. We saw him at the Chilaeo, Shortcut Saddle, and Chantry Flat before going to the finish line in Pasadena. Rocky took 16th place and ran the 100 miles in 23 hours, 44 minutes, and 44 seconds. And because he finished it in under 24 hours he got a belt buckle. :-) For the last 50 or so miles he was paced by Eric Clifton, a famous ultramarathoner that won the Badwater 135 in 2000 when a movie was being made about it. The movie they made about it is called "Running on the Sun". We met both Eric and his wife, and while we were driving around to the different checkpoints we got to hang out with her and get to know her a bit. One thing I can say about the ultramarathon community is that it is small and tight knit. Everyone is very nice and everyone helps each other out. Oh, and did I mention that Barefoot Ted was there along with some natives from Copper Canyon in Mexico that ran the race in traditional sandals? Here are the pictures that Timber and I took at the race.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:09 PM

September 14, 2007

Tom Tech Fridays Part IV

I figured I would do double duty today since I didn't post anything for last Friday. This episode is about Pacman Championship Edition for the Xbox360 Live Arcade. I'll assume everyone has heard of and played Pacman. Pacman Championship Edition is basically the same concept but it adds a few twists like changing mazes, weird ways of getting more power pellets (or whatever they are called), and techno music in the background. I downloaded it yesterday and had to put it down in order to get other things done but I think it is a really cool game. If you have an Xbox360 you should at least download the trial version so you can check it out.

Posted by troutm8 at 03:07 PM

Tom Tech Fridays Part III

I wouldn't call this one Tech all that much but I think it is interesting and it is my blog so here goes. The other day I was listening to an algorithms class and they mentioned Stirling's Approximation which basically says this:

If you have a number N, you can approximate the Factorial of that number with an approximation. In computing, if you have a really large number to compute the factorial on, you will have to do a lot of calculations and thus use a lot of CPU time. But the Stirling approximation can save you a lot of time, assuming the number is large enough. But it is only an approximation and the accuracy gets better as the number gets larger.

So being a hands on guy I decided to write a little bit of javascript to illustrate the factorial, Stirling's Approximation, and the difference between the two numbers all on the same page. And sure enough as N gets larger the difference between the two numbers gets smaller. It isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but here it is. The actual code part is only 6 lines:

var fact = 1;
for(i=1; i < 101;i++) {
fact = fact*i;
stirling = (Math.sqrt(2*Math.PI*i))*(Math.pow((i/Math.E),i));
difference = ((fact - stirling)/fact) * 100;

Posted by troutm8 at 11:32 AM

September 13, 2007

Mission Impossible

Over this past weekend Timber and I voluntarily did probably the craziest thing either of us have ever done. We were not sure what to expect. We took her two and a half year old nephew, Dio, to the Ratatoui at the movie theater. With little kids you never know when they are going to freak out which kind of makes bringing a small child anywhere in public like handling dynamite. We picked him up, made sure that his diaper had been changed so he was fresh and ready to go, set up the car seat in her car, took him out of the house, put him in the car, and off we went. He was pretty good for the car ride. Once we got to the mall we parked and then had him walk with us to the movie theater. Timber's idea was to have him walk with us to the movie theater instead of carry him so that it might tire him out a little bit and he would be less likely to run around and "freak out". After we got our tickets (kids under 3 years old are free for obvious reasons) we took him up the escalator, which he found very interesting. Once we got into the main hall for the movie theater (where they had tables for people to sit at, concession stands, and two gateways to the actual theaters) you could see from the look on his face that he found it all very fascinating. Once we made it to the actual theater where we were going to watch Ratatouie I opened the door and he walked in with Timber. Immediately we were immersed in the surround sound, a huge screen showing movie previews, and the smell of popcorn. Again I could tell from the look on his face that this was just awesome. After we got seated I went to get some snacks (popcorn, soda, and a hotdog) and then brought them back. After the movie started his attention was glued on it and he seemed to really enjoy it. Timber and I took turns feeding him pieces of hot dog and popcorn. After about an hour we noticed that he started to get restless. We were sure that we would have to leave the movie early. He wanted to stand up and move around. So Timber put him in her lap for a while and then put him back in his seat. To our suprise he made it all the way through the movie without freaking out. There would be no major problems on this day. Overall the experience of taking him to his first movie was a good one. I really enjoyed seeing the look of wonder on his face as he walked into the movie theater. Kids are awesome like that. Now we are making a list of other cool places to take him, but I'm pretty sure we won't be as lucky next time.

Posted by troutm8 at 05:26 PM

Labor Day Adventures In Gold Country

Timber had to work over most of Labor Day weekend this year, but she did get one day off which allowed us to go to the California Goldpanning Championships in Foresthill (outside of Auburn). We met up with her parents who were hanging out there for a few days. We got to watch a few of the goldpanning competitions and I ended up buying a few tinity bowls which I got to use later in the day at in the river just below the Oxbow Reservior. Timber's dad and I dug around a little bit and did some goldpanning, but it was over 100 degress, so we didn't stay out there for too long. We found a little bit of gold, but to do it properly we really needed to spend more time and do more digging. Overall it was a fun trip and I saw that there are a lot of people out there that take prospecting for gold very seriously.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:55 AM

September 07, 2007

Islam: The Alternative to Democracy

I haven't read the full transcript from Obama's I mean Osama's latest speech, but according to this article he says this:

"It will also achieve your desire to stop the war as a consequence, because as soon as the warmongering owners of the major corporations realize that you have lost confidence in your democratic system and have begun to look for an alternative, and this alternative is Islam, they will run after you to please you and achieve what you want to steer you away from Islam."

So he's saying that Islam is an alternative to Democracy? I guess the deeper meaning would be that Islamic Law (Sharia) is an alternative form of government to Democracy. Tell you what Osama, I'll keep Democracy. How about you come out of your hiding place and become a maryr? No better way to die right?

One thing I find interesting about the terrorist networks, including Al-Qaeda is that they hate the West and everything we stand for, yet they use western technology to communicate those views and to plan and execute terrorist attacks. Isn't that ironic? I say if they want to be true muslims and carry out attacks against us they should do it with the same technology they had back in the 7th and 8th centuries. Otherwise I view them as hypocrites.

Posted by troutm8 at 01:35 PM

Into The Wild

The other day I heard about a movie coming out soon based on the Jon Krakauer book "Into The Wild". Then I saw the movie trailer. And then today I came across this article which says that the movie has scenes from Fairbanks, Anchorage, Healy and Cantwell. It also has other aspects like "In April 2006, the crew filmed the actor playing McCandless entering the Stampede Trail at the same spot and on the same day the real McCandless entered the wilderness 14 years earlier." - ADN which I think makes it very interesting. If you don't know the story of "Into The Wild" (true story) it is about a crazy guy that wanders around and eventually makes his way up to Alaska. He then decides to go live in the wilderness and try to be self sufficient and dies there (big suprise). My mom gave me this book a long time ago and I think the book is pretty well done. In fact, I've read all of Jon Krakauer's books. The reason there is so much detail about this guy is that he kept a diary. I'll editorialize about this guy and the movie after I watch it, but let's just say that people shouldn't leave their cushy cubes, wifi iTunes, lattes, and Priuses just yet to go live in the Alaskan wilderness. It is not quite the utopia that Disney would lead you to expect.

Posted by troutm8 at 08:55 AM

September 06, 2007

A Letter From Steve

Thanks to Rob for sending me this link. I'm going to paste the entirety of the open letter from Steve Jobs to save you from having to click on the link.

To all iPhone customers:

I have received hundreds of emails from iPhone customers who are upset about Apple dropping the price of iPhone by $200 two months after it went on sale. After reading every one of these emails, I have some observations and conclusions.

First, I am sure that we are making the correct decision to lower the price of the 8GB iPhone from $599 to $399, and that now is the right time to do it. iPhone is a breakthrough product, and we have the chance to 'go for it' this holiday season. iPhone is so far ahead of the competition, and now it will be affordable by even more customers. It benefits both Apple and every iPhone user to get as many new customers as possible in the iPhone 'tent'. We strongly believe the $399 price will help us do just that this holiday season.

Second, being in technology for 30+ years I can attest to the fact that the technology road is bumpy. There is always change and improvement, and there is always someone who bought a product before a particular cutoff date and misses the new price or the new operating system or the new whatever. This is life in the technology lane. If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you'll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon. The good news is that if you buy products from companies that support them well, like Apple tries to do, you will receive years of useful and satisfying service from them even as newer models are introduced.

Third, even though we are making the right decision to lower the price of iPhone, and even though the technology road is bumpy, we need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price. Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these.

Therefore, we have decided to offer every iPhone customer who purchased an iPhone from either Apple or AT&T, and who is not receiving a rebate or any other consideration, a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store. Details are still being worked out and will be posted on Apple's website next week. Stay tuned.

We want to do the right thing for our valued iPhone customers. We apologize for disappointing some of you, and we are doing our best to live up to your high expectations of Apple.

Steve Jobs
Apple CEO


All I can say is that it sounds to me like a lot of "early adopters" are upset. Even though I'm not upset I'll still take the store credit if that's what they want to give me. :-)

Posted by troutm8 at 01:07 PM

IPhone Price Drop

I saw the news yesterday that among other announcements, Apple was dropping the price of the 8 Gb iPhone by $200. I didn't really think about it too much until my coworkers kept asking me how I felt about it (with their smug smiles). I think they assumed that since I got one late at night on the first day that I would be mad because of the large price drop after just 2 months. But to tne contrary I'm not mad because I think it is worth the money that I paid for it. I'm not upset and I'm not going to email Steve ( and complain and ask for a $200 voucher or check. I've had my iPhone for 2 months now and I have to say that it is by far the best cell phone and iPod that I've ever had. I've had very few issues with it and I will say again that it doesn't do everything under the sun, but the things that it does, it does exceedingly well. I could bore you with pages and pages of text recalling times that I was pleasantly suprised by the iPhone. I can't speak for other iPhone owners, but speaking for myself, I'm not mad or upset with the price drop. But focusing on the price drop, I'm guessing that sales were not where Apple wanted them to be at this point, so they decided to drop the price in order to entice more people to buy them. We'll see if that works...

Posted by troutm8 at 11:34 AM

September 05, 2007

Tom Tech Fridays Part II

Yeah yeah, I know it is not Friday but in fact Wednesday, but this past weekend was a holiday so I've delayed my little nugget of geekdom until now. In this week's episode we'll discuss the comparison of four different indexers. This paper talks about picking one to package it with the Gnome desktop environment and how do use it for desktop search. So if you're into search engines and linux read on, if not I'll try to have something for a more general audience this coming Friday.

I think the authors of this paper did a good job when they went about testing the four different indexers. Obviously if you are putting an application onto a user's machine things like performance, usability, extensibility, and integratability are all important. The difficulty with testing the different indexers is you have to run the tests on the same hardware and software, you have to use the same data, and the tests have to be exactly the same. On top of that you have to have good tools to measure the things you are looking for which is usually CPU utilization, IO, and Memory used as well as search results accuracy in this case. Once you get all that it can be a painstaking process to run through all of your tests (I know this from running 30 hours worth of tests just like these last week). And usually when you've finished, or thought you've finished, the numbers tell you things that make you want to run even more tests.

Overall I thought their methodologies were solid and their results showed some serious problems with each of the four indexers. But like anything you pick the best tool for the job and go with it. Some new tools that I didn't already know about but will try out for my own testing include Exmap and heap-shot. One tool that I've been using a lot lately which does a pretty good job of creating pretty and colorful charts for the managers is nmon.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:03 AM