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October 31, 2008

Games to Play Before January [No Life] | Posted at 2:29 PM

It is a good time to be a gamer but a horrible time to be a student. Alas, school is more important. That is, until winter break.

Here's what I'm playing right now, in my limited time available:

New Games

  • Fable 2
  • Far Cry 2
  • Fallout 3
  • Rock Band 2
  • Red Alert 3
  • COD: World At War Beta
  • Dead Space

Old Games

  • Boom Blox
  • Okami
  • Mario Kart Wii

Here's what's coming out soon (by the end of November) that I'll be playing (eventually):

  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Mirror's Edge
  • Tom Clancy's EndWar
  • Gears of War 2
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Starcraft II
  • Prince of Persia

Not to mention Saints Row 2 which was already released but I haven't even got to yet. I mean, it's crazy, especially if you own a PS3 as well. Everyone wants to get Game of the Year but one thing is for sure, 2008 will go down in gaming history as giving birth to such amazing games.

I will have more than enough to do this break, no boring days for me!

PS. Penny Arcade pretty much summed up my feelings.

Gears of War 2 LAN Party and XNA Game Studio Presentation | Posted at 2:02 PM

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Whoo, I get to host a Gears of War 2 LAN party!

More details on Facebook!

I'm expecting a bunch of people to show up, I mean, we are giving away copies of the game. It should be a lot of fun.

First Impressions: Fallout 3 [Oh my] | Posted at 1:54 PM

Fallout 3

Well, it certainly is a month of rejoicing for gamers. Not only are there Fable 2 and Far Cry 2 to sink our teeth into, now we've got Bethesda's latest installment: Fallout 3. And let me tell you, this one's a doozy.

I've spent a good 4 or so hours on this game and I've only skimmed the surface, maybe not even the surface, the surface tension.

The first thing you realize when you start this game is that it is much more cinematic than previous Bethesda games. From the moment the classic retro music starts playing, you know that is will be an epic game. The tutorial sequence and introduction is beautifully crafted, very clever, and will stick with you, like how you can recite the intro dialog to Morrowind.

Unlike Oblivion, I would very much enjoy playing the introduction whenever I start a new character but there's no doubt that there will be a "Quick Play" mod to exit the vault faster.

Once you exit the vault, the whole scope of this game comes into focus. It's massive. To give you an idea, I played for 4 hours, I discovered 6 locations, and only one city (the first one, Megaton). About 2 and a half of those hours were spent doing one quest. It was awesome.

As with my previous posts, I will just go over some key areas that interested me, since I could write a lot about what I've played so far.

The Dialog

Remember when you played the Dark Brotherhood quests in Oblivion and realized that it was more fun than the main quest? A good chunk of that was due to the amazing dialog and writing. I'm glad to say that that's all of Fallout 3. The dialog and writing in this game are fantastic, engaging, and quirky. People have personality and I haven't run across the same voice yet. You can tell that Bethesda has tried their hardest to make Fallout 3 seem like a living, breathing world with different people and different personalities. Many, many lines of dialog were recorded in this game and depending on what you do, can be different each time you play.

Like previous Elder Scroll games, you can choose responses to dialog but this time, some choices are affected by your attributes or perks. Case in point, the Black Widow perk for women gives you special dialog choices when interacting with male characters. On the other side, the Lady Killer perk does the same for your male character.

Combat

You will realize almost right away that Fallout 3 is not your typical FPS. It is a step above Oblivion's ranged combat, so real-time shooting is definitely a plausible line of attack. However, I would say that the VATS system is infinitely more helpful during combat. VATS is the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. It lets you pause the game and target different enemy's body parts, using up Action Points in the process. Using up your AP will render VATS unusable until you wait a little while in real-time to regenerate your AP.

Whenever you use VATS, the game will choose a slow-motion cinematic camera angle to show off your skills. This makes for some awesome combat scenes, especially when you shoot off someone's head.

While in VATS, the game shows your percentage chance of hitting the different body parts. For those of us who thrive on leveling up our characters, this pleases the innate statistician in us. For other players, real-time combat can be just as fun and I use it all the time to snipe people with my rifle. Sometimes, though, VATS is useful when you're running low on ammo and need to act strategically. This brings me to another point…

Conserve your ammo in this game. Unless you are actively raiding out in the Wasteland, you will easily start running low on ammo. As with Oblivion, the easiest and cheapest way to stock up is to go adventuring. Guns will give in to disrepair quickly and you have to find other guns of the same type to repair them. I suggest putting a lot of points into your Repair skill, it will save you some precious caps. Each gun uses different ammo and there are lots of different types of guns. Small Guns, Big Guns, Energy Weapons, Melee, and Explosives are the different weapon types you'll encounter.

I only am starting out, so I've mostly been buying ammo from traders and store owners. I am praying that it will be easier to get ammo when I start adventuring.

Stealth, Stealing, and Hacking

Stealth is finally super-useful in this game! As with Oblivion, you will do critical hits when sneaking. The game will also warn you when an enemy is close to detecting you. Backstabbing someone is possible now and sneaking overall just seems more solid than in Oblivion.

Computer terminals are useful devices to unlock doors, gain quest secrets, and overall learning more about the world. Your Science skill helps your hacking. To hack a computer, you choose phrases or letters on the screen to guess a password. The game tells you how many characters in the string are correct, to help you narrow down the results. I've only been able to access Very Easy and Easy terminals, so the passwords aren't very long. You get 4 attempts and if you don't get it by the last attempt, you'll be locked out. The game is nice though and you can restart the mini-game anytime by accessing the computer again, but the phrases will be different.

Lockpicking is the classic bobby pin picking and stealing in the game is much, much better than Oblivion. You are free to sell anything you steal to anyone and if you're not seen, no one will know, just as it should be. Pick-pocketing is also fun, as long as you're careful. You know this game is amazing when you can put a live grenade in someone's shirt. KABOOM!

Atmosphere

Fallout 3 is all about atmosphere. The Capital Wasteland is a joy to explore and the post-apocalyptic landscape is ripe with fruit to pick. Cities, characters, locations, and enemies look like they belong. The feeling of starvation, of anxiety, of helplessness is palpable. Oblivion was basically cities and caves with trees in between. Fallout 3 actually feels like a cohesive world, where different places look different. You will remember landmarks and there's always stuff to find in nooks and crannies. And there are a lot of nooks and crannies. Detail is attended to here, even more than Morrowind I would say. Generous gifts are there for you to find if you know where to look.

Everything Else

I haven't even got to talk about the quests or other small details this game has to offer. The crazy, backwards physics in Oblivion are fixed here, things fall at the right speed. The character models look generally better overall, animations are still not Bethesda's specialty but nothing to rant about, and sound is used very well and has a very minimalistic philosophy in the game. The music is fantastic and really adds to the game. Making moral choices is fundamentally different than other games, sometimes it can be hard to be pure evil since people actually feel like they matter.

I have the PC version of the game and I can't complain about performance. It performs better than Oblivion, and I even have anti-aliasing enabled. Smooth framerates, minimal loading stutter, I am very happy with the optimizations. The graphics aren't Crysis but they are beautiful and dark, easily fitting for the atmosphere. You can see to the horizon, I have yet to see any fake distant landscapes/mountains that you can never reach. Everywhere you see, you can go.

Later in the month, I will be sure to record more of my thoughts about this game, as well as the mandatory One Sentence Review.

October 28, 2008

Impressions: Fable II and Far Cry 2 [Gaming] | Posted at 9:31 AM

Fable II

I bought Fable II from Amazon using "release-date delivery" and it came as promised.

I just recently played the original Fable for PC and I'm having a lot of fun with it, so I was excited to play Fable II. I also was caught up in the hype Peter generated about the game and I'm glad to see I wasn't disappointed.

Fable II is really made up of everything summed together. I love the art, I love my dog, I love the characters, and I love the voice acting. It's fantastic. There's a lot to say so I'll just focus on some key parts of the game that warrant my opinion.

The Doggy

I love my dog. His name is Pluto and he helps me find awesome treasure and helps me kill bad guys. Gotta love it. The dog is computer AI controlled and while that may sound sketchy as far as reliability, you can be sure Lionhead did a good job making sure your dog does what you expect it to. It won't get in your way (if it does, you can't damage it), it runs ahead of you, it sniffs around for treasure or digging spots, and it loves you. You don't have to worry about it following you, getting stuck, or getting lost while you run through an area.

The Golden Trail

I have mixed feelings about the Golden Trail. If you don't know what it is, whenever you have a quest, a golden trail of dust will appear showing you exactly where to go. This is helpful but you also will end up missing some cool side quests and treasure.

You can disable it, however. The problem I found is that while it was great being able to explore at will, the map is not friendly to you if you turn off the trail. It seemed like an afterthought. I would at least like to see where to go on the map if I turn off the trail since it's not labeled.

Combat

Combat in Fable 2 is quite simple on the surface. There are three buttons you use, X for melee, Y for ranged, and B for magic. The great thing is that there is no Will power/Magicka, instead you charge your magic attack to do more damage. Also, if you press the analog stick in a certain direction you perform a ranged magic attack otherwise you perform an Area spell.

For melee, there are only four weapon types: Rusty, Iron, Steel, and Master. The nice thing is that there are a lot of "augmentations" you can put on your weapons.

Ultimately, the combat in Fable II isn't super difficult but it's satisfying. People will fly around if you kill them with your sword, you can push people off cliffs, and you can use special "Flourish" attacks to finish off opponents (along with the classic sword impale).

That said, combat is significantly better than the PC version. You don't have to target people, your character will automatically target people but you can look around to target someone else. No button pressing to lock on. You press the attack buttons to do an attack and it feels fluid and easy, it doesn't feel clunky like Fable 1.

Spells are a little different, especially if you want to switch spells from a multitude of reserve spells. You have to press the D-pad to select other spells and this can detract from the fight especially if you can't remember what the icons mean.

The Changing World

Everything you do in Fable 2 affects the game world. There are certain transition times when the game takes into account what you did, for example coming back to Albion 10 years later. All the quests you did before you left have now affected the game world. Did you donate to the Temple of Light? Well now it's a massive complex. Did you help out the poor farmer? Well now he has a huge estate for you to purchase.

It's really, really cool. Not only do the towns change layout, the outside regions have morphed as well.

Everything Else

Fable 2 is fantastic. It has a beautiful art style and I thought the graphics were really nice all things considered. The sunlight filtering through the trees or town is very pretty.

Fable 2 also has its own feel, it doesn't feel like a rehash of another game… it definitely feels like Fable, looks like Fable and sounds like Fable. Excellent voice acting and hilarious writing, Lionhead didn't sweat the details.

That's another thing: in order to really appreciate Fable, you've got to explore and do everything. If you focus on the main quest, a lot of the game will pass you buy. Sometimes it's good to go off the beaten path. Marry, have kids, become a 5-star Blacksmith, teach your dog tricks, all of that stuff.

If you're worried about time, don't. I've played for about 12 hours now and I have been able to complete all the quests before the first time you leave Albion, and most of them afterward. However, I still haven't completed the main quest and every time you do another part, it adds more quests for you to do. Besides, you don't want it too long, do you? Then you won't want to start a new game and be evil.

I highly recommend this game.

Far Cry 2

I have to be honest, when I heard Ubisoft was doing an open-world shooter, I was very skeptical. However, when I sat down and played the game for about 2 hours, I realized how much fun I was having.

There's also a lot to this game, so I will again go over some key areas.

The Map

In Far Cry 2, the map is your indispensable companion. So, it was very fitting that Ubisoft made the map part of the game. You don't pause the game to view your map, instead it acts like an item which you take out while you walk or even drive. Yes, that's right, you can drive with your map out and you'll do this often. Just as in real life, you really can't view the map and drive easily at the same time. You're either driving or looking at your map and pretending to drive.

The game world is pretty big in FC2 and I've only gotten to a snippet of it. The map has locations of key things like health, ammo, guard posts, safe houses, towns, and other key points of interest. In that sense, Far Cry 2 resembles Oblivion where you discover things as you find them except that the locations are already marked. For example, the map will say there's a Guard Post ahead of you but you only find out what the guard post offers (health, explosives, ammo, etc) once you clear it out and poke around. Guard posts also offer a break in between driving to make you get out and shoot stuff. Alternatively, you could try and drive past and initiate a chase which can be fun.

The Immersion

Ubisoft did an amazing job with the immersion in this game. Everything you do is from your perspective and your view is not static. When you go into a house, you see yourself turning the handle, when you get into a jeep, you see yourself hopping in. Even when you switch to the jeep's machine gun and jump off, you do it. It makes you feel like you're really there. Even the weapon jamming and vehicle breakdowns are part of the experience.

Your malaria is another thing. Your vision gets blurry and pulsates when you need your pills. Usually this is remedied by just hitting H to take your pills. I haven't progressed far enough to see this as a problem (i.e. running out of pills?).

Buddies in the game are great as well. One of your buddies will come rescue you and help you if you "die." You have to visit them to make them "rescue-ready" again.

The RPG

I wouldn't call FC2 an RPG in the same sense Fallout 3 is. However, you do find diamonds which is your form of payment, and you can buy upgrades to your weapons, items, and vehicles. You can buy ammo bandoliers to carry extra ammo, you can by accuracy upgrades for your weapons, and you can build a collection of weapons.

In FC2, you can always pick up weapons from enemies. However, they are usually bad and old so they jam often. Instead, you can visit your safe house or an armory to exchange your weapons for new ones. Once you purchase a weapon at the Arms Dealer, you get unlimited quantities of that gun in your armory. Arms Dealers and Armories are always in the same location and there are many spread about. You can do missions for the Arms Dealers to gain more weapons.

In the case of the map, I already talked about how you "unlock" guard posts after finding out what they off. You also unlock Safe Houses by killing the enemies guarding them. In this aspect, FC2 has some elements of an RPG.

It should also be noted that enemies respawn. I've yet to find this annoying since I really do enjoy sniping guard posts from afar, or just driving in the middle of them and using my flamethrower or machine gun.

Fast travel is available if you use the bus stations (there are 5 in the game). They let you travel to the 4 corners of the map and the central city.

Everything Else

I haven't played a FPS in awhile that has kept me interested for multiple hours on end. While some may complain about repetitive enemy fights I find them enjoyable and I like to drive around in my jeep or go-cart. I actually really love the graphics, they make Africa come alive.

As with Fable 2, I highly recommend this game.

October 24, 2008

One Sentence Review: Far Cry 2 [Games] | Posted at 2:39 PM

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Title: Far Cry 2
System: PC
Review: I was pleasantly surprised to see that an open-ended world would really work for a FPS, since Far Cry 2 is actually pretty fun.
Grade: A-

Buy it from Amazon

One Sentence Review: Fable II [Games] | Posted at 2:34 PM

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Title: Fable II
System: Xbox 360
Review: Despite its semi-shallow combat offerings, the game is tons of fun and well worth the price.
Grade: A

Buy it from Amazon

Lala.com – All Sorts of Awesome [Music] | Posted at 2:27 PM

If you don't know about Lala, you're missing out. I heard about it on Buzz Out Loud and decided to give it a try, it's awesome.

Basically, there are several things you can do:

  • You can buy albums/songs as "streaming only" versions for only 10 cents. Albums cost 80 cents.
  • You can buy the MP3 for 89 cents. If you bought the web only version, then it's only 79 cents to upgrade.
  • You can listen to any album or song the first time for free.
  • You can match your collection to Lala's and access your collection online anytime, anywhere for free.
  • Oh yah, it's DRM free.

I think what really makes Lala great is the ability to listen to any song or album you want for free the first time. This really does it for me since I like to listen to all sorts of artists but Amazon/iTunes/everywhere only has 30 second previews which are useless. With Lala, I can listen to the whole album before buying. The quality is also great, I'd guess 128kbps.

The other thing that makes Lala awesome is the ability to buy web only versions of the song. This is great because it's cheaper at the expense of not being able to put it on my MP3 player.

Of course, if you buy the web songs… you have to hope that Lala stays in business to keep your songs. I would assume that if it happened that they had to close, they'd refund your songs.

Shoutout to WebHostingSearch.com [Friends] | Posted at 2:15 PM

I want to thank Eva from WebHostingSearch for letting me be added to their site, WebHostingSearch.com. Check out the site for a running list of design and hosting companies around the nation.

On that note, I am getting ever so closer to releasing my brand new Intrepid Studios site. It's looking good so far. I'll post a preview soon.

October 17, 2008

Mac, Windows, and Linux [The Big 3] | Posted at 3:57 PM

I was reading the post on BoingBoing about how the Microsoft ads were created on Macs, and then reading the comments on The Cult of Mac blog. As a designer and someone who's seen how Microsoft does its marketing as a Student Partner, this didn't surprise me. Obviously Microsoft hires an ad agency to make its ads and the agency uses whatever it feels comfortable with to make the ads, this should be a non-issue except that it's a good headline.

Anyway, one of the commenters made a great post about how people should open their eyes a little bit more. He talked about how it doesn't matter what OS is inherently "better" because there's no answer to that. It depends on the user. He mentioned that as someone who views a computer as a tool, then all 3 operating systems provide good options.

If you've developed on computers you know these key things:

  • Every OS crashes. My iMac has crashed or froze more than my Windows PCs. Not that they don't crash, they do.
  • Each OS has something better than another.
  • Each OS has a toolset that is a boon to different kinds of developers.

That's my view, personally. I use an iMac at work and I love it for my PHP development and graphics design. Expose, Spaces, and Apple-Shift-4 are fantastic. At home I use a Windows XP desktop, which I love for my games and .NET development. I have my HP tablet with Vista that I love for its Tablet functionality and OneNote 2007. And finally, I keep a Knoppix bootable CD around in case someone's computer goes beserk and needs backing up.

As someone who's now used Vista for awhile, I can say that since SP1 was released it's a fine OS. Yes, the security dialogs can be annoying but it's not that bad. I haven't had my laptop crash yet and it's fast. My friend uses Vista daily as a gaming machine and he doesn't have any problems. My roommate has a 64-bit Vista laptop and enjoys his 4GB of RAM and gaming. It had a rough start but honestly, some features it has are much greater than XP. It's not that bad.

It will be beneficial to you in the long run to get acquainted to all the OSs, as it helps when you work at different businesses.

One Sentence Review: Scream, Aim, Fire [Album] | Posted at 3:02 PM

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Title: Scream, Aim, Fire
Artist: Bullet for my Valentine
Review: There is definitely some good songs on this album and damn if they aren't catchy.
Grade: B+

Buy it from Amazon MP3

October 16, 2008

Social Music Sharing Get-Together, Sponsored by Zune! [Microsoft] | Posted at 3:14 AM

Zune_hrz_4c_L_White

I'm hosting an event! My first event. Check it out!

RSVP at the Facebook Event

It's basically a music get-together. If you're reading this and you're from the U, definitely stop by… I hope to have people listening and sharing music with each other.

Maybe if it's popular I can host it again. We'll see.

October 15, 2008

Public Schools Might Be Alright [Books] | Posted at 2:35 PM

I was recently contacted by a young gentleman who is reading The Diamond Age (which, I've said before, I love) for his AP Lit class. I'm glad that this teacher has good taste. He asked me if I'd answer some questions about the book since he saw my review on the blog and of course I accepted and replied.

Anathem

I am currently reading Anathem by Stephenson right now and I'm really enjoying it. Like all his books, after you get past the first 150 pages you finally understand what is going on. I'm not sure what page I'm at since I have the audiobook but I am pretty aware of what's happening.

There was a review on Audible where the guy said he stopped because he couldn't get past the new words/language and stuff, and how he loved Snow Crash… I don't know, I haven't found it that difficult to follow at all. Sure, there are new words but they are pretty common to English words, you at least have an idea of what they mean and if you don't, Neal will eventually explain them. Plus, I got it "free" ($30 worth of membership) for 2 credits on Audible so I can't complain.

October 12, 2008

How To: Create a Tinker Toy Tractor | Posted at 2:57 PM

This instruction set is for my HSEM 3067H class, where we get different restrictions on making instructions for a tinker toy creation. Our restriction is that we can only use text-only on a blog or wiki.

That means no pictures, so we've tried our best to standardize our vocabulary and being pretty specific on what needs to be done.

What You'll Need

  • 4 Yellow Wheels
  • 2 Big Red Wheels
  • 2 Red Rods
  • 2 Purple Connectors
  • 1 Purple Rod
  • 1 Green Rod
  • 1 Dark Green Cross
  • 1 Orange Sombrero
  • 1 Blue Wheel

Overview

What you'll be constructing today is a tractor. There are 3 parts to creating the tractor: 1) Create Back Axle, 2) Create Front Axle, 3) Insert pedal shaft, seat, and steering wheel.

At the top you will find the list of materials you will need from the Tinker toy box. Keep in mind these are the "big" tinker toys, not the smaller ones.

Assumptions

When using Big Red Wheels, we are inserting rods into the side that appears to be the inside of the wheel. The "center" is the hole that is surrounded by 4 other holes.

Part 1: Create Back Axle

The Back Axle consists of:

  • 2 Big Red Wheels
  • 1 Purple Rod
  • 1 Blue Wheel

Steps

  1. Take a Big Red Wheels and insert one end of the Purple Rod into the center hole of the wheel.
  2. Take the Blue Wheel and slide it (using the center hole) onto the Purple Rod so that it is situated in the middle of the rod. The Big Red Wheels should be able to turn without turning the blue wheel.
  3. Take the other Big Red Wheels and connect it to the other side of the Purple Rod so that it reflects Step 1.

The Back Axle should resemble the rear wheels of the tractor.

Part 2: Create Front Axle

The Front Axle consists of:

  • 2 Purple Connectors
  • 3 Yellow Wheels

Steps

  1. Insert one end of the Purple Connector into the center hole on the 1st Yellow Wheel.
  2. Repeat Step 1 for the 2nd Yellow Wheel and Purple Connector.
  3. For the first pair, insert the other end of the Purple Connector into the center hole of the 3rd Yellow Wheel (the side of the wheel that consists of only one hole).
  4. Repeat Step 3 for the second pair.

The Front Axle should now resemble the front wheels of the tractor.

Part 3: Insert Other Connectors

The Pedal Shaft

The pedal shaft consists of:

  • The Front and Back Axles
  • 1 Dark Green Cross
  • 1 Red Rod
Steps
  1. Slide the Dark Green Cross onto the Red Rod, so that it is situated in the center.
  2. Insert one end of the Red Rod into the Blue Wheel of the Back Axle. At this point it does not matter which hole you use in the Blue Wheel.
  3. Insert the other end of the Red Rod into the center Yellow Wheel of the Front Axle.
  4. The back Big Red Wheels and the front 2 Yellow Wheels should be touching the ground and the Red Rod connecting the Front and Back Axles should be parallel to the ground.

The Seat

The seat consists of:

  • Back Axle
  • 1 Green Rod
  • 1 Yellow Wheel
Steps
  1. Attach the Green Rod to the Blue Wheel of the Back Axle so that the Green Rod is perpendicular to the ground (i.e. sticking straight up).
  2. Attach the Yellow Wheel to the Green Rod, so that the Yellow Wheel is sitting flat atop the rod (i.e. use the center hole to attach).

The Steering Wheel

The steering wheel consists of:

  • Front Axle
  • 1 Red Rod
  • 1 Orange Sombrero
Steps
  1. Attach the Orange Sombrero to one end of the Red Rod.
  2. Attach the other end of the Red Rod to the Yellow Wheel of the Front Axle so that, when all 4 tractor wheels are touching the ground, the Red Rod forms a 45 degree angle with the Pedal Shaft.

Conclusion

You should now have a tractor/go-cart/vehicle. The front wheels don't really turn, but we made do with the parts we had.

October 6, 2008

How To: Get $10,000 Worth of Stuff [Digital Dorm Room] | Posted at 6:16 PM

Want lots of free stuff? Want $10,000 worth of free stuff?

Head on over to my other blog to learn more. Or just enter the damn sweepstakes. Be sure to give me credit and choose U of MN Twin Cities. Please?

October 1, 2008

On The Issue of My Shortcut URL [I'm a Narcissist?] | Posted at 10:55 PM

I have to talk a little bit about why I use my own name as a domain name that forwards to this blog (i.e. kamranayub.com).

Contrary to what you may think… it wasn't because I wanted a domain named after me. I mean, that's kind of cool, but really my thought process worked like this:

  • My blog is named Divide By Zero, why not have "divide-by-zero.com" or something?
    • Because what if I change the name of the blog later? I'd have to pay another $10 to get it changed.
  • What if it was something weird?
    • Then it doesn't describe what it's about.
  • What if I just use my name?
    • People will think I'm full of myself. Oh well.
    • I can always change where the address forwards to, if I ever change blogs or the name of the blog.
    • In the long-run it will cost less because I won't have to buy another domain!
    • People will remember because they know who I am.
    • It's shorter than divide-by-zero.com and the real URL of this blog.

Let's be honest, I am a wired person (I am everywhere)… this blog acts like my central hub of who I am. I link to my Linked In, my company, my designs, my resume, my Google shared items, my favorite blogs, etc. It just makes more sense to use my name to get to somewhere that's… about me.

I had a blog before and I got rid of it, this one is probably here to stay awhile longer… but it may end up that I switch providers (i.e. not UThink) and I change the name of the blog, or whatever.

It's just convenient to tell people "go to my name .com" to get to the blog… if it was like divide-by-zero.com I'd have to say "Go to Divide By Zero .com with dashes between every word" or "Go to Divide By Zero Blog .com all one word," ad infinitum.

So there you have it, now feel free to judge me.

Does PowerPoint affect how we think? [Trippy] | Posted at 10:36 PM

It's an interesting question and we'll be discussing this tomorrow in class.

I wanted to point you in the direction of two great articles on the topic:

PowerPoint Does Rocket Science--and Better Techniques for Technical Reports

Basically, this is an article talking about how the teams at NASA presented their reports to executives using PowerPoint and what their format said about how they thought.

Absolute PowerPoint

An article in The New Yorker, it basically goes into more detail about the idea of PowerPoint "editing thoughts."

My Take

It's an interesting discussion, to say the least. I mean, in my class on Digital Literacies we talk a lot about the affordances of technology, i.e. what is inherent in them and what is developed by society.

In PowerPoint, as is alluded to in the NASA report article, you have a limited amount of space, how can you communicate a complex idea on one slide? Indeed, the very thought that you have to convey a single idea on every slide is an inherent quality of our thinking, isn't it? I tend to convey ideas across however many slides I need but we are still conditioned to convey the least amount of text possible since we know (or think we know) that no one reads long paragraphs of text on slides.

As you might have seen in Edward Tufte's article, the word "significant" appeared many times on one single slide but its meaning changed every time. Instead of being able to write about phrases that normal executives could understand, PowerPoint's affordances tend to produce sentences that are very short and staccato'd.

What I also thought was interesting was the way we order bullet points, normally from most important to least important, or bigger idea to smaller detail. Tuft mentions how the ideas that mentioned the shuttle not being able to safely land were smaller, end bullet points, as if it was a bad idea to talk about them.

This set of articles is under the theme of this week's class: "visual literacy." It's interesting to consider PowerPoint visual literacy considering the meat of a PP is its textual content. However, this goes back to the hierarchical ordering of data, that we organize our thoughts and ideas in a presentation in a visual way. Big to small text, bullets, charts, images, logos, etc.

From a personal standpoint, even I can see how right these articles are. When I will be working on my Windows Live presentations this or next week, I won't be able to fit all the things I want to say on the slides. I am going to have to abbreviate them, to make sure I stay under my 10-15 minute pitch. At the same time, when I give a PowerPoint presentation, I don't rely solely on what's written on the slides, it's as much about speaking as it is about the slides. I like to think of them as complementary to my talking… but sometimes it gets the best of you, if you are pressed for time you skip through slides (and what you were going to say).

I think that it is a valid point of contention to say that, "Well, PowerPoints aren't all about their text, it matters what you are saying as well." I think that's true, I think that maybe what we see on that NASA report isn't necessarily everything that was discussed but also remember that most of the time you are pressed to finish the presentation… if you had done a speech/non-visual presentation, you probably would have written out an essay and than refined it until you managed to say everything you had to say within your allotted time period.

Still, a presentation or speech is no substitute for a properly written document… if you are presenting on a complex topic, you better have a formal document to go with it.