Glossy Exterior

The MacBook Pro arrived just after we finished our “end of the year” performance reviews. It was like getting candy after going to the doctor’s for a shot.

I’ll talk more about it later as I unwrap its delicious layers of goodness, but for now, here are my first impressions.

For starters, it’s glossy. REALLY glossy. Probably too glossy. This is not a laptop I’d want to watch a movie on, or have to do any serious color correcting of photos. It does however, like a plasma TV, have very rich colors and a deep black, which I’m sure was their intention in doing this. For me, I’m indifferent, I’ll have to have it longer than 5 minutes to give you an impression.

Second, there is a distinctive lack of accessories. As you may know, they’ve gotten rid of the DVI port and replaced it with some crazy new mini-multi-monitor jack that looks like a mini-USB port to be quite honest. That’s wonderful for the aesthetic look of the laptop, but NOTHING uses this port except the brand-new cinema displays. Given that 99% of their users don’t have one of those when they buy a new laptop, you’d figure that Apple would include a short converter cable, or at least a connector, or something. Nope. If you want to hook this laptop up to a $4000 display that you already have, you need to shell out another $30 for an adapter at the Apple store. Seriously? You’re launching new technology and not giving anyone a simple $2 cable? That’s lame. Also missing from the box is the extension portion of the power cable as well as the small Apple Remote that until now, came with nearly everything.

The laptop, the power brick and a cloth to clean the screen were LITERALLY the only things in the box.

I know I’ve never owned a Mac before, but to be quite honest, I was expecting something a little more, I dunno, complete feeling. Maybe it’s the PC in me, but where are the cables, the manuals, the warranty card, the piles of crap I don’t need? While useless, having a pile of crap was reassuring. Getting basically an empty box makes me FEEL like I’m missing something. I know I’m not. I know it’s all here, and the presentation is nice, but it’s like getting a giant heart shaped box of chocolates only to find out that there is only one single piece of candy in the box and the rest is simply packing material.

That said, it is a laptop. It’s not supposed to come with a whole library and a free Big Gulp. It’s fast, it’s silent, it’s got everything on there, ready to go. So, I’m happy. Hopefully this will be a good experience.

Now, pardon me, I have to go to the mall to buy an effing video cable.

Matt out.

Time Management

Management of time is crucial during the busy holiday gaming season. So much so that it’s nearly an art form. A constant war must be waged between wallet, free time and the game of choice. Rarely a restructuing of events occures. Most major decisions regarding purchases have been made long before now. This year unfortunatly, is a little different.

In previous seasons, developers have released games for the holidays in close proximity to each other but not on top of each other. For example, last years mega hits Call of Duty 4 and Assasins Creed hit in November and December respectively. That gave me time to play both.

This year, apparently the gaming gods have seen it nessisary to launch every major title in Novemeber, save a couple for October who were in turn released on top of themselves. So, we’ve already seen Fable 2, Fallout 3, FarCry 2 and DeadSpace, all within a week. Those are already hard choices I’ve had to make. I’d love to try all of them. This week we get Gears of War 2, quickly followed by Call of Duty, Mirror’s Edge, Need for Speed, Tomb Raider, Left 4 Dead, 2 different snowboarding games AND Prince of Persia at the end of the month. Then, nothing. A completely blank December.

I have to admit, I’m a little confused by that. Nothing right before Christmas? No one saved a big release for the “after Thanksgiving” shopping season? Really?

Does that seem odd to anyone else?

Either way, I’ve made my choices and changed one of them significantly. After playing the new Call of Duty beta and being very underwhelmed by it, I’ve decided to leave that for an after Christmas sale purchase. I had very high hopes for it but it seems little more than a COD4 mod with less impressive weapons and slower game play. I’m also very much done with the WWII genre, at least for the moment. Need for Speed and Mirror’s Edge will also get the axe, but not for a lack of effort. The Mirror’s Edge demo was interesting and proved it a valid concept. Alternatively, I think I’m going to pick up Gears this week in their place. Something I was going to wait until December to get. It’s not that I’m expecting it to be great, but it’ll pass the time until Left 4 Dead, my true choice for the season. Then, my next big purchase won’t be until Skate 2 in January. Everything else will have to be picked up later, probably while on sale. It’s not that I don’t want them, but seriously, how would I find the time to play something like Fallout if I haven’t finished Fable 2 yet and I’ll be battling zombie hordes inside of two weeks. That’s a very small window to squeeze 80+ hours of RPG into.

Anyway, it’s not like it matters. Everyone has their own list. What are you guys excited for? What will you be playing between now and the holidays?

The Light after the Darkness

When the U-Verse technician told me yesterday I could “get to the TV stuff online” I assumed he meant I could see channel listings. Of course, the downside was having to endure a trip to to do it. I didn’t link that because no one should ever have to see a “portal”  page like that unless they’re being subjected to some sort of web 2.0 tourture chamber. Everything that could possibly blink does, and then it slides, jumps, talks, dances, rotates and eventually bends your browser over and has it’s way with it. It’s not good.

However, there is some light at the end of the browser rape tunnel. Once there, a U-Verse customer can find another link, one to a shiny golden place of web goodness. A place that lets you forget the pain you just went through.

Through some bizarre collaboration between the internet gods, you can, actively, through this second website, access your DVR at home. All because Yahoo and SBC teamed up. AT&T re-borg’ed SBC, and thus Yahoo, and now you can access your AT&T hardware via Yahoo’s homepage.

You have access to it’s recorded shows, it’s schedules, it’s settings. More importantly, you have access to all this via an interactive channel guide. Meaning, you can browse the TV listings for weeks in advance, select a show, set the DVR to record and then come home to find that indeed magic has taken place.

Oh, and did I mention it’s cellphone/PDA/iPhone compatible? Seriously, that’s a cool feature.

Lastly, as I mentioned yesterday, after my U-Verse install I took it upon myself to drop my own cable down a couple walls. Something that I succeeded in, albeit at the expense of skin and the fiberglass insulation that decided to cover it. I can’t really blame it though, I was invading it’s natural habitat. Something I’m not likely to do again anytime soon. That said, the mission was a success. Fiber to my Xbox makes me a very happy person.

Game on.

Fiber is good for your diet

The U-Verse install just wrapped up and I have to say I’m fairly impressed. The techs showed up at 10am, ran a whole new line from the pole, did 3 wall drops and a couple new outlets and wrapped it up before 3pm. Everything seems to be working perfectly. TV’s and the DVR took under 10 minutes to get up and running. The internet connection was soon after. I just ran a bunch of speed tests and I’m getting a completely steady and rock solid 9.5-10mbps down 1.3-1.5 up. Crazy.

So, now that the tech has left, I’ve gotten my box of Cat-5 out of the closet and I’m going to attempt my own wall drop so I can have a direct connection from the modem to the Xbox. Wish me luck!

Matt out

Couldn’t have said it better

I rarely cut and paste. I find it demeaning to the medium of blogs as a whole. In this case however, it couldn’t be helped. I had tried, repeatedly, to sum up my compassion for computer gaming for some time, in hopes that I could convey how much I love the platform even though I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time with the 360 version of Call of Duty lately. Tycho, as always, delivers a far more eloquent description of the situation than I could hope to. I present it, distilled to it’s purest, the reason PC gaming will always be part of my life.

“On a weekly basis, we’ve got apocalyptic news about the PC as a platform interleaved with assertions of a phoenix-like resurgence. The phoenix-like resurgence portion is rarely built on any stable metrics, so it’s impossible to know the vigor of this reconstituted sovereign with any precision. The important takeaway point is that everything is incredible, perpetually so, even while publishers, developers, and many of your own (supposed) friends choose to grip gamepads during their increasingly constrained leisure hours.

I don’t think you can have any perspective on this industry unless you’ve spent time with PCs. You need to know that when Insomniac is talking about how they’re going to have sixty players, and squads, and so forth, that Battlefield 2 had sixty-four players, and squads, and maps for specific playercounts in two-thousand five. In 1999, I played a game of Tribes with a hundred and twenty-eight players over a modem.

What I’m talking about is perspective. If you want to look into a Goddamned crystal ball, spend some time with a tooled-up personal computer.

I’ll never be able to divest myself of the intense nostalgia I have for this platform. I can’t be without it. But if a person wants to play videogames in their spare time and not perform mechanical surgery on their equipment, that doesn’t make them an idiot. It makes them a pragmatist.”