Thursday, January 28, 2010

Crazy Idea: Double-iPad

I had an idea on the day that the iPad was announced (yesterday, I think). Imagine 2 iPads, next to each other, touching, longer side to longer side, facing the same way. Now, imagine that they are connected by a hinge, and that they could close together all the way, such that the screens face each other, similar to how a laptop closes screen-to-keyboard. Finally, imagine that these two devices are the same device, rather than two separate devices tacked together. I think that this device - which I will tentatively call the iPad DS - would be good. It's like a cross among an iPad, a conventional laptop (or perhaps a tablet PC - I don't know much about them), and a Nintendo DS.
This layout has some advantages over the other devices:
-The maximum potential screen area is double that of an iPad.
-With the right settings, one vertical, landscape screen could act like a normal laptop screen, and the other screen could function as a keyboard. Thus, it could effectively be a laptop with a touch-screen, but it adds versatility, since it doesn't have to be.
-The ability to close it means that the screens are better-protected than that of the iPad.
-It would potentially be very nice for reading newspapers or books. Think of holding a laptop book-wise, with the keyboard replaced by another screen.
I estimate the cost for the basic version of such a device at $1000 if it's made by Apple. The cost of $500 per iPad is a good guideline, and there is added complexity, but at the same time, the hardest part of development is already finished.
I have no plans to buy an iPad, for many reasons. I don't have a job yet, I already have a computer that's new as of 3 months ago, and I like using my computer on my desk (keyboard down and monitor up). However, if a double-iPad were released, then I would seriously consider buying it once I have consistent work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Haiti, RPGs, and Value Determination

On Monday, I heard about something interesting. Apparently, I could donate $20 to Haiti relief via, and I would get over $1000 worth of products. This sounds great. I investigated it, and the money specifically to Doctors Without Borders (a.k.a. "Medecins Sans Frontieres", excuse lack of accents since my keyboard makes those nearly impossible) and their Haiti relief effort.
Before I go on, I'd like to point out that I don't need convincing. On Tuesday (when I looked), I donated the $20. I had been meaning to donate, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so. For various reasons, they say to leave 1 business day to process (by now, mine should be done) and another 1 to 2 business days to get the e-mail saying that the downloads are ready.
I started mulling this over in my mind. Theoretically, donating to the relief of Haiti is already a good thing, but can I prove it? In a much more concrete manner, my transaction has produced value. My $20 has not ceased to exist - it has gone to Doctors Without Borders, who are in turn helping Haiti. However, there are suddenly $1000 worth of legal downloads that did not exist before. Note that I did not necessarily generate information - the files already existed and were already downloaded by countless others - but I did generate value.
To put it into terms of the two entities directly affected by this: I lost $20 in capital and gained $1000 in market value of electronic products, and Doctors Without Borders has gained $20 in capital. Thus, they netted $20 and I netted $980, in capital and market value, respectively.
Of course, that explanation has a clear flaw. While $1000 is the market value of products that I will receive, if I do not actually use any of them, then it is $0 gross gain and -$20 net gain for me. For this cause, I consider that acceptable, but that does not actually explain anything.
My true net gain will be -$20, plus the market value of each product that I eventually use. I obviously cannot determine that before I even receive the products, but I can estimate. The products in the bundle are listed on the site, so I will go through that list and try to determine which products I will actually use:
17 Archer Feats/17 Bard Spells/17 Magic Shields/17 Monk Feats/17 Plants/17 Rogue Feats: $0.99 each - (d20 system) I expect to be able to use at least 2 of these. $1.98
Adventure Essentials: Holy Water: $1.99 - (d20 system) $1.99
Adventure Essentials: Rope: $1.99 - (d20 system) $1.99
Apocrypha - Myths of the World: $0.00 - (no system) This sounds handy for inspiration for lots of things. $0.00
Basic Poker Playing Cards 1: $0.50 - (no system) These sound fun/handy to have. $0.50
Bits of Magicka: Pocket Items: $4.50 - (d20 system) I'm fairly confident that, at some point, I'll be running a game where a player wants to pick pockets, and I'll want to make it interesting. $4.50
Book of Races: $8.00 - (D&D 4E) Odds are good that I'll play or run 4E at some point, and that this will be handy either for a race used or for reference. $8.00
I'm going to pause here for a moment. I've reached the bottom of the second page of the list, and there are 12 pages total. My total estimated value is $(1.98+1.99+1.99+0+0.50+4.50+8.00) = $18.96. Unless the remaining 10 pages of listed products are unusually dry of useful material, I expect to at least double that amount, resulting in about $18 of net profit on my end.
Well, that was an interesting exercise, even if I didn't finish it.
If there's a lesson to be learned from this, I'd say that, if you want to donate to Haiti and also like RPGs, go through RPGNow to do so. You'll help Haiti, produce value, and possibly profit. If you want to donate to Haiti but don't like RPGs, then donate through whatever means you prefer.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Star Trek: Online: Here are the Keys to Your New Ship, Ensign

OK, so, I got a Star Trek: Online beta key. I've been trying to play it when I can during the open beta. I'm going to briefly go over a few key points about the gaming experience so far.
-By default, any open slots on an away team (i.e., not filled by players or officers) are filled by red-shirted security officers.
-There are tribbles.
-Common enemies include the Borg *and* the Klingon.
-It uses the original timeline, so Vulcan is still there.
-Most missions include time in space and time on a planet or space station.
Space combat:
-It's pretty cool and also challenging.
-Auxiliary power to port shields!
-Fire all phasers!
-Fire photon torpedoes!
-Full power to shields!
-Evasive maneuvers!
-Yes, you can do all of those things in this game.
Ground combat:
-It's also pretty fun.
-It can be hard. Never let a Klingon with a bat'leth anywhere near you.
-There are red-shirts!
Special stuff:
-I like the open team formation system. Basically, if two people who have "open teaming" turned on enter the same system (read: dungeon), then they join together as one team. If a third person who is similarly open teaming also enters, then they'll be on the team, too.
-I know why the federation uses phasers instead of disruptors.
I like Star Trek: Online. Once I get a job (to provide money and to give me a routine), if I feel like paying for an MMO (DDO is free for main content), then I'll seriously consider this game.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Twitter: It's Over Five Thousand!

As I'm writing this, I'm about to hit 5,000 tweets on my twitter account. According to, I've been tweeting for 1 year, 9 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, and some change. I started on March 23, 2008. It's not quite two years. Now, I'm fairly certain that the utility either checks when the account was made or checks when the first tweet was tweeted, so there's little regard for frequency, so you'll have to just trust that I've been tweeting mostly at a steady rate ever since I got the account. Anyway, I'm writing this post about my experiences with and on twitter.
Initially, the concept seemed quite useful. Twitter asks "What are you doing?" as its proposed question, and one answers in 140 characters or less. Applications using twitter were in development (and new ones continue to be produced), so my plan was to get onto twitter, wait for things that would allow my twitter account to interact with AIM/MSNIM/YIM/Gmail Chat/Pidgin, and interface them so that I'd have a one-stop shop for my current status, rather than having to edit my status on each of those things separately.
Well, for various reasons, that didn't quite work out. Among them was that twitter has become a social network of sorts. I can follow people, basically saying that I'm a fan of theirs or that I consider them my friends. People can follow me, saying that they're fans of mine or that they consider me their friends. And, of course, mutual following amounts to mutual fandom or friendship. For those who don't know, on twitter, one's main page has a feed of one's own tweets plus tweets from those that one follows, lined up in temporal order. Unfortunately, if I want "mentions" of me, including those from people that I don't follow, I have to go to a separate thing. It's easy to miss communications that way, but I'm in the habit of, rather than refreshing the page, clicking the replies link, then clicking the home link again, to check both.
As I'm writing this, I'm following 108 people and I have 140 followers. Also, to the best of my knowledge, I've only been blocked by one user, for reasons unknown. Wait, I'm following 108 people? That sounds like a lot. On reviewing that list, though, I see a few things. First of all, accounts can belong to companies and organizations, so I'm following, for instance, @CERN and @diradio (belonging to CERN and, respectively). Also, some people don't tweet that often, so following them doesn't clutter up my feed that much.
Some features have been added to twitter since I signed on. For one, retweeting has been quite popular, where one says "ReTweet @UserName ", or "RT @UserName " for short. However, that only works for tweets that are shorter than [135 - [UserName.length]] characters long. To "solve" this dilemma, twitter itself added a "ReTweet" feature, which works alright, except that it doesn't allow the addition of comments to the ReTweet, which was one of the advantages of the old way with very short original tweets. The other notable new feature is lists. I follow various people for various reasons. Now, I can sort them into lists, if I wish to look at a specific topic for some reason. Also, other people can follow these lists to follow a whole group of people at once. Among other things, I have lists on the topics of atheism, steampunk, conventions, and scifi. I will say, though, that I have yet to follow someone else's list. I've seen only a few, and they generally either include people that I don't want in my feed or include so many people that I fear an overcrowding of my feed. Also, I've just checked, and all of my lists are followed by either 0 or 1 users. I'm also on 9 lists, but 4 of those are my own.
Of course, the question is also begged: How did I get 139 followers? Well, I'll admit that several of them are spam accounts. I stopped bothering to remove them a while back. Basically, I think that they follow people in the hopes of getting followed back so that they can direct message them. (Direct messaging is only available between people who follow each other.) So, they don't actually hurt me, and I don't feel like culling my followers regularly. Of course, plenty of my followers are legitimate accounts who follow me because... actually, I don't know why. I guess that they just like what they see.
I've followed people and I've been followed, sometimes by the same people and sometimes not. I've made lists and I'm on lists. I've met people and people have met me. I've entertained people and I've been entertained. Overall, this twitter thing has been a positive experience, even if it didn't work out for my original plans.
I'm planning to announce this blog post for tweet number 5000.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

General Update: January 2010

So, I haven't been blogging much and, in general, I've been doing a lot of other stuff. Here's what's up:
Back in October, my computer died. Since then, I've gotten a hard drive enclosure, so I can access my files from that. I've started moving things off, though I've hit a snag in that my bookmarks from Google Chrome seem to need a special treatment. Anyway, I'm working off and on on moving stuff off of there, and I plan to eventually format the drive to use as an external storage drive.
I've also recently found out about a free MMORPG: Dungeons & Dragons: Online, a.k.a. "D&D:O" or, for some reason, "DDO". I downloaded and installed it and got an account, at the behest of some friends who also play it. So, I've been playing that a bit, too.
I'm also working on organizing and consolidating my wishlist items, making a reading list for this year, and catching up on my webcomics and other things that got slowed down when my computer died (and also by the holidays).
So, I'll be working on the above things for a little while.

Resolutions for 2010

So, since New Year's is an occasion on which people customarily resolve to accomplish within the next 12 months, I figured that I might as well make some resolutions.
My first resolution is to blog weekly. So, I'm already losing at that one. I could limit myself to full weeks, so that the week of the 1st & 2nd doesn't count, or I could blog twice today, but frankly, if I have at least 52 blog posts this year, I'll be pretty happy, considering how little I usually blog.
Secondly, I'm working on a resolution on some web stuff of mine. I'm not being specific on it because I'm still not sure on the details of what I'll do with it. I'm planning to schedule various things over the course of the year. Also, there's a piece of hardware for me to get before I do anything with it yet.
Thirdly, I'm resolving to read several books this year. The list hasn't been finalized yet, but among other things, I expect to get around to finishing The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
I thought that there was something more, but I don't seem to remember it, so I'll just leave that there.