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Archive for August, 2008

Well, scratch that idea

So, I’d settled on buying the MacBook Pro. After emailing back and forth with some friends about the differences in the interface and working in a mixed WinXP/OSX environment, I decided it was worth the extra money. What finally settled it for me was remembering the increasingly invasive Microsoft “rights management” crap – I just didn’t want to deal with that.

Happily, my credit union approved my original loan request and then said that increasing it by a few hundred would be no problem. And it would make a nice tax deduction – added benefit!

That’s when life peed in my beer.

They would only give me the loan for a two-year term, making the payments too high. Given that I have excellent credit (Really, you can’t get a credit score much higher than mine.), I don’t understand why the short term. But that’s the way it is, and thus I won’t be buying a new laptop.

I hate it when reality gets in the way.

Ah, well.

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So, I’m still in the market for a new laptop. (The old one, affectionately named Talky Tina, is roughly ten years old – eons, in computer years.) My leading candidate had been a Dell loaded with Ubuntu, a flavor of Linux. I’d get a powerful, stable operating system, a wealth of free software (I’m a big fan of open-source and shareware), and it was the least expensive of the three options.

Naturally, there’s a deal-killer.

I need without question to be able to run Final Draft, which does not have a Linux version, nor does it run well in any Windows emulation under linux. So, my second choice moved to first place: a MacBook Pro.

Some people are probably gob-smacked to discover I’m even considering Apple, but they shouldn’t be. It was never the computers I objected to (other than certain interface issues, I think they’re excellent computers); rather, I’m annoyed beyond belief by the paternalistic, sanctimonious arrogance of Apple as a company and the unquestioning, slavish, cult-like devotion of so many of its fans. It’s a tool, not a lifestyle!

Ooops, getting lost in a rant there. Back on topic…

The trouble with the Apple is price: you pay a premium for the cool-factor of owning a Mac. Even with a discount through my workplace, the price for the configuration I want (I refuse to settle for less. If I have to “settle,” why buy?) comes to just over $2,200, a bit over my budget.

On the other hand, a Dell mounted with Vista in a roughly comparable configuration (including quality external speakers and a negligible savings in software-switching costs) would cost a smidgen over $1900.

There are advantages to each.

The MacBook Pro: An established, stable operating system (albeit with a lot of patches, it seems) and ease of operation. If there’s a problem, I can take it to the local Apple store.

The Dell with Vista: An operating system similar to what I use already, thus lessening the software-switching costs and shortening the learning curve (granted, I can probably pick up the “Mac way” of doing things quickly). Home warranty service. A machine that’s more than 15% less expensive. One consideration is that I could easily dual-boot it to run mostly in Ubuntu and just use Vista when I need it, such as for Final Draft.

There are disadvantages to each:

The MacBook Pro: More expensive. Interface features I don’t like. A (probably short) learning curve. Some software switching expenses, perhaps a lack of good replacement software for some programs I use. Having to be without the computer if it needs to be sent away under Apple Care. The “Apple ‘tude.”

Dell with Vista: Likely OS replacement in 2009. Vista problematic with third party software and equipment (not as bad as at first?). Microsoft’s increasingly intrusive “rights management” and monitoring. More security risks.

So, it’s up in the air. I can see good reasons to go either way, and good reasons not to. I’m truly undecided at this point. Confused

More research and thought is necessary. As is more beer. Beer mug

A bit more: Doing some research on the Ubuntu forums about experiences having both Vista and Ubuntu on the same machine, I ran across this tale of woe. A highlight quote from a Ubuntu power-user: “Egads, Vista is a nightmare. Nuke it or install XP.”

Oh, dear. Score one point for Apple.

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I’m not asking for much

Just man-portable missiles I could fire at bike riders who nearly knock me down from behind when I’m walking. Angry

 

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Sad news: SciFi Channel has canceled Stargate: Atlantis. While never as good as Stargate SG-1, it was still a very enjoyable science-fiction adventure show that had some brilliant moments. (I challenge anyone to watch either “The Storm/The Eye” two-parter or “The Siege” parts 1-3 and tell me those aren’t superb TV) It will be allowed to finish its fifth season with 100 episodes total and the likelihood of a direct to DVD movie.

Still, I weep. SciFi Channel’s other original programming is generally horrible, and I have no faith that the producers, who seem to little understand or care for science-fiction, will replace it with something worthwhile. After all, these are geniuses who thought wrestling would be appropriate.

And, overall, it’s sad to see the Stargate “universe” slowly shut down. (The rumored third series is unlikely to come about, in my opinion.) It’s a wonderful setting, a perfect vehicle for telling all sorts of stories. And it’s ideal for roleplaying games, too. (In fact, similar ideas had occurred before, notably Frederick Pohl’s Heechee saga.)

This creates an odd situation for me and my writing partner: one of our sample scripts is a Stargate: Atlantis episode. A very good one, if I do say so myself. But, spec scripts for canceled series have a limited shelf-life of about one year after cancellation. After that, they’re obsolete and not of interest to producers. The script had been written before some major cast changes took place, and we had considered rewriting it to account for those changes, but now I suspect we should just give it a once-over to fix problems and just leave the cast as is. It isn’t as if it can get any more out of date. Sad

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I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of pain, recently. First is my upper left arm, where the muscles act as if they’ve been punched if I move them a way they don’t like — which is most ways, the last few days. Massaging it doesn’t help. I’ve also been suffering with a tender/tight Achilles tendon in my left leg, which can leave me limping for a few minutes until it stretches and relaxes — which it sometimes doesn’t do.

So, I’m going to see an acupuncturist on Friday morning. I did this once before, one-two years ago, when I was going through similar pain in my right arm. The improvement was amazing, even if I did for a while look like a relative of Pinhead from Hellraiser.

My encounter with traditional Chinese medicine last time was fascinating, so I’m actually looking forward to this visit.

Bring on the needles.

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There and back again

I’m back. Did you miss me? I had a lovely time in Indianapolis, attending the GenCon game convention in Indianapolis. Never got to the zoo as I had hoped: I may have to go a day earlier next year.

And, yes, there will be a next year, barring unforeseen good or bad fortune. I even got to play in a game (Using the FUDGE system)! Conceived as a dark, investigative horror scenario, it rapidly descended into dark farce when it became clear that MadAlfred, Scamper, and I couldn’t resist temptation. Thankfully the other players and the gamemaster rolled with it, and a good time was had by all.

I also helped referee three sessions of the first round of the Call of Cthulhu Masters’ Tournament. I rarely get to play or “gamemaster” (GM) anymore, so this was also a fun experience. The scenario was of the type I preferred (investigative and historical), and my sessions were lucky enough to have mostly good players. Three sessions in two days is quite a bit when combined with other convention activities, but it was worth it. I’ll be happy to do it again next year, should the Secret Masters provide another investigative piece.

Your Host also worked as a booth monkey for Heliograph, Inc., purveyors of fine roleplaying games set in the Victorian scientific romance and Pulp genres, as well as miscellaneous third-party products for Call of Cthulhu. There were few new products this year, but I had fun playing in a demonstration game of Zeppelin Age (coming Real Soon(tm)!) with two of the most gun-happy children I’ve ever met. Allah help al Qaeda if these boys ever take the field.

Naturally, I bought toys, though not nearly as many as I used to. Most notable were buildings from the Miniature Building Authority and Thousand Suns, from Rogue Games.

This trip was also a good time to see friends whom I all too rarely see, the aforementioned MadAlfred and Scamper, as well as one of the Secret Masters behind Rogue Games. Finally, I was shocked to learn that attendance reached roughly 28,000 people this year. Who would have thought that so many geeks could gather in one area without some metaphysical disaster occurring?

 

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I’m off on vacation until a week from tomorrow, Tuesday, enjoying the wonders of mysterious and exotic Indianapolis while attending the GenCon game fair. Yes, your host is 50 years old and still a geek at heart! Nerd

My ancient laptop doesn’t have wireless, so there will almost certainly be no blogging until I get back.  Until then, be good, and no rearranging the furniture while I’m gone!

That’s, I’m outta here! Dancing

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