What a Racket!

So I have been in the market for a larger hard drive for my Xbox 360, really the only gaming I do these days, even at that it’s spent playing FIFA. First person shooters have lost luster with the time I spent on Urban Terror. That is not to say there are not good FPS games out there, but something that is revolutionary and new, sorry don’t think so. My son and I stop by GameStop yesterday and I notice they have refurbished 120GB hard drives, so I inquiry about them. Hearing nothing negative I decide to spend $99 as opposed to the retail price of $149.99 for the same product new. Of course there is a kicker. The refurbished hard drive did not come with a transfer kit that includes a USB type cable to transfer your data. The other kicker, no retail stores locally carry the transfer kit. You can always spend $49.99 and let the Geek Squad do it at Best Buy. Talk about a racket!

So I am not sure what I will be doing. I know for a fact I won’t pay someone to do it for me. I thought about buying a new 120GB hard drive, using the software and transfer cable and then returning the hardware to the store. The last option is to buy one off any number of Internet stores. But $20 to get me a cable for something I will only use once. Not sure I like this idea either.

One would figure there would be a way to transfer saved game data to a temporary drive, like a flash drive and manually move it from one hard drive to another. The more I read, the less likely this sounds. But here is a nugget from the transfer kit manual, “Dispose of the cable in accordance with the Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment guidelines in your Xbox 360 Warranty manual (Volume 2).” So let me get this straight, I am supposed to throw away this cable AFTER I transfer my data. MS also doesn’t consider this an Xbox “accessory.” Whatever!

Hopefully a friend of mine who purchased an ‘Elite’ ordered their free cable/software from MS and transferred their data over from an older, smaller hard drive. If not, I am back to square one on what direction to go. This seems rather ridiculous to go through, especially these days with technology being what it is and the fact that the 360 is USB 2.0 compliant. I guess this is MS being the proprietary little bitch. Not as if this is anything new. I won’t get started in all the other accessory (WiFi, anyone?) that is overpriced for what it does. What about the fact the 360 only came with 1 USB port on the back of the unit? Guess I was supposed to shell out $50 to get their USB hub, so I could add media content on my one 500GB hard drive.

Okay, enough bitching from me. All of this is to be expected because it IS Microsoft we are talking about here. The same company who still can’t fix my damn Xbox 360 from the “red ring of death” from occurring. I give it under 6 months and I will be filling out the paperwork and shipping my Xbox off to Texas again to be fixed. Maybe I should send it COD to Bill Gates and tell him to fix his shit before selling it to the public. Then if that were the case their operating systems would have never gotten off the ground and we would all be hailing Steve Jobs and Apple.

Point Blank Review: Battlefield 1943

Since my “retirement” from software development I have never return to that community or any other online computer gaming. I have lost all desire because software developers are very uncreative these days. It seems that everything that could be designed has been and the first place a developer looks for a “return to glory” is in the past. Look at the lineup from id Software, Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein. Many other titles from other developers are developed in the same vein.

I believe the last good game I played was from Dice, titled Battlefield 1942. Although in my opinion BF1942 was not as fun as Codename: Eagle, but ’42 was a well done game. Being out of gaming, I was rather excited to see Battlefield 1942 (yes that is a typo) available for the Xbox 360. What I didn’t notice at the time, until I spoke to my buddy in Los Angeles, that this was was actually called Battlefield 1943. It was a new and updated version of 1942 some years later.

I was torn, so much for having faith in Dice as they have now regressed and moved backwards in order to redevelop their last good hit. I am no fan of the console controller, they are just terrible for FPS games, especially a fast paced online BF1943 or any other game. So my aiming leaves a lot to be desired, it is not as accurate as the popular keyboard/trackball (or mouse) combination that is so common in the gaming community.

After realizing 1943 was a remake of 1942, some of the thrill was gone. Yet the game is visually stunning, given the technology running in the Xbox 360. It does seem that is what sells games these days and not game play.

As for the game play, there is really nothing much to report. Some of the movement over the terrain and up hills is smoother than I recall. I found myself not getting stuck on objects when operating a tank, for example. One new addition that adds to the game is the ability to blown up portions of buildings and structures. You can run over fence, through buildings and it seems to really add bit of pizazz to the game.

Flying was easier in the PC version. Both sticks are required as is the trigger button for your throttle. The left stick is used to help make a coordinated turn by using the rudder. Personally I don’t think it works all that well and you find your aircraft slowing way down to make a tight turn. But the planes are a bit more balanced in this version versus the PC version.

I have only put in a few hours but I am enjoying my experience. I think the air raid feature sucks, but Dice did the same type of thing with their crappy follow up, Battlefield 2 with the artillery strike. I could not pass up the opportunity or the price to check it out.

Unfortunately one of the things Dice or any other developer cannot get rid of with programming are the asshat players. Just like the previous community I was involved in there are many who just ruin the fun and enjoyment. I am sure this is will be my deciding factor when I loose interest in the game. Way to go players!

I recommend it though for the Xbox 360, it is worth the small price tag.

The ARG.

It’s rare to have anything to discuss when it comes to computer gaming. In my mind the thrill and excitement of gaming has lost it’s luster. This is not because I have become jaded after retiring from game development and supporting the game community for nearly 10 years. I am still impressed to see new games come to term, unfortunately many companies and distributors today don’t give a shit about the gamer, but the bottom line. I guess that makes sense, get some dumb bastard to spend $60 bucks on a game, take WoW for example and then charge them a money service fee to play. Better yet, charge the end user for new content. Nearly all games use some component of this today. I know I have been taken in by it with Rockband 2 and well as a few other XBox 360 games recently.

Back in the late 90s, the actual year is fuzzy and I have not been able to search and find the exact title of the game, there was a game that was played real time, in real life by gamers. The only way to describe it now is by calling it an alternate reality game or “an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.”

I happened to stumble upon this game concept when reading a thread on a UFO hoax at ATS yesterday and they mentioned ARG. I found the concept rather perplexing and decided to give it a further look. Currently, I am reading up on a ARG called SF0 of SF Zero. Your character is “You” and You are tasked to complete objectives, submitting proof when you accomplish a task. There are more dynamics involved in the game, but this is the general principal.

I find the concept rather interesting and definitely off the main stream of computer gaming, yet gaming nonetheless. While computers are involved they are not the primary means of interaction. I am continuing to read about SF0 but the concept does interest me. Just like the original text adventures that paved the way for future games to follow.

** EDIT: Majestic produced by EA was the ARG I was thinking of, which debuted in 2001 and was discontinued a year later.

Young Hams: Part 2

It’s the same old story in ham radio. The hobby is dying because the youth of today are not interested in amateur radio. You see it as a dominant topic today on sites like eHam and QRZ, OM posting comments and stories about the “lack of interest.” I just started reading comments from current hams regarding, ‘Bringing Youth into Amateur Radio‘ and while I shouldn’t be surprised it’s rather amazing of the attitudes of some hams in regards their hobby.

Maybe it’s the attitudes of the OM that frustrate me more than the fact that fewer “young” people are introduced to amateur radio. Of course being a “no-code” Extra Amateur I am already frowned upon by many for the “dumb down” requirements I had to fulfill in order to achieve my current license. I consider myself “young” when it comes to the supposed median age of an operator being 55 years of age (I’m 39).

I was indirectly introduced to amateur radio prior to the advent of the home computer, gaming consoles, mobile phones, iPods and all the other wonderful technology that draws young people away from an “old” hobby. I still remember hanging out with my father (N6SV), Glenn, K6NA and Jim, N6RJ during the 1970s participating in contests.

I was in awe at the lights, buttons and dials of the radios, as well as the “noise” and voices I heard coming through the speakers and headphones. Unfortunately, as drawn as I was I did not take an interest in becoming licensed. I do recall attempting to read a licensing book that was from the 70s, but I never really got past the first few pages.

Then it happened, the PC computer was introduced, as were gaming consoles and the interest in radio continued to fade into the past. My father slowly started to get out of the hobby and turn his attention to the new technology.

My son is approaching his 3rd birthday (30 Nov.) and he spends time in my shack when I am in there. He walks around with my Kenwood HT, talking into the microphone. He wants to push buttons and turn dials on my radios. He is interested, albeit too young to really get much out of his shack experiences. Will he take to in the years to come? I don’t know. I would like to think as long as I am active and “playing radio” he too, will take to it.

There are other distractions that will take away from these radio experiences, such as PC gaming, Xbox, the Wii and mobile phones. But these are all things I am involved with, so my son gets a variety of experiences. This doesn’t guarantee anything, but he is exposed to ham radio, which should provide him an introduce that will hopefully further his interest.

Like many other hobbies I don’t feel amateur radio is going anywhere. The new testing requirements are a start, regardless of what the grumpy OM crowd cries. Any hobby is a learning experience from day to day, ham radio is no different. If a young person shows interest then by all means help them experience what ham radio is, not what you perceive ham radio to be because of requirements from the 1950s or the fact that testing requirements have been decreased.

I have said it before on T6F, as long as my son keeps an interest in playing with my HT and playing with my mobile rig in the truck, I will continue to foster this interest and hopefully get him licensed as young as possible. Hopefully other hams will take that active interest when approached and do their part.

Young Hams: Wanted

I heard an interesting QSO on 147.045, the Livermore Amateur Radio Group repeater this morning discussing the youth of America becoming involved in amateur radio. This topic continues to be ongoing, with a difference of opinions. One point being made was the diversity in ham radio usually offers something for everyone. Especially these days with a PC being a common piece of equipment in a ham shack. That was not the case 20-30 years ago.

Many different digital modes use a PC, for example PSK31 (Phase Shift Keying), so does RTTY, SSTV and many other including CW (or Morse Code). Okay CW purists, don’t downplay the fact that you can transmit CW without knowing code or having a key. PC gaming is still a major past time of the obese youth of America. Now for someone to come along and develop software on the XNA platform for the Xbox 360 and then maybe some of the youngsters might come around.

Not sure there is any definite solution to the youth not becoming involved in amateur radio. I am sure it is still seen as a, “my grandfather used to talk on his radios all night” sort of hobby that only old men are involved in, when in reality that could not be further from the truth.

I’ll be the first to admit and regret my decision for more taking a more “active” interest back in the late 70s and early 80s when my father was really involved. With his knowledge, attention to detail and the number of hams who he would work with I am sure I could have learned much more. Not saying how I did it was wrong, because I did get started, but my foundation beginning 30 years ago would have been much stronger and made me a better operator today.