July 31, 2005
Newegg Lanfest 2K5 ftw !!!1!!1

I went to the Newegg Lanfest yesterday at the Pasadena Convention Center. It was mainlining PC gaming direct to the brain, and not for the faint of heart. BTW, the acronym 'ftw' stands for the gaming term 'for the win', denoting something that leads to success.

There were three main parts of the Lanfest. First was the trade show of probably 20+ vendors of high level PC hardware. There are some truly impressive monitors out there if you are willing to part with the cash. The high end LCD screens are truly fantastic. The vendors helped contribute to the gooie bag given away to each attendee. Full of swag, and even including a t-shirt, the goodie bag was instantly put to use by the gamers.

Second was the Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) area, where you can bring your gaming rig from home and match it your skills against others in the room. At the Lanfest, there was room for over 400 BYOC computers. When I sat down at 4PM on Saturday, it was hard to find an empty seat.

The third major part was the tournaments. Newegg was giving away over $70,000 in cash and hardware to the winners. The tourneys were run on the hardware provided by Newegg to ensure that everyone had a level playing field when it came to the computers and made sure that skill was the deciding factor.

People are damn serious about these tourneys. Teams compete in most of the tourneys and they had practiced a lot for this. I heard several heated discussions aobut performance by teams that were sitting next to me in the BYOC area.

The tourneys even had their own play-by-play provided by Inside the Game. To a gamer like me, this is just as compelling as any other sport on TV.

Turning to my experience, I had a good time, but the next Lanfest I go to, I'd like to go with friends. I did talk to many people, but it would have been nice to have a few buddies around to eat with and watch my gear when I wandered around.

I arrived at around 4PM and setup my computer. The Lanfest goes all night, so I told Michele I didn't know when I'd be home. I started gaming with Call of Duty, just to see what it was like. It was pretty much like playing on a public server, with uber-chaos in Deathmatch.

After about a half hour, I moved over to Battlefield 2 and had a good time. People were using a little voice communications, but for the most part it felt like a very speedy public server with minimal coordination. The lack of coordination could be frustrating if the other team got a hold of most of the aircraft and rained down destruction.

In the evening, Newegg brought in pizza for everyone and it was all-you-can-eat. Watching hungry gamers wolf down free pizza is not a pretty sight. Also, thoughout the night, Newegg had scantily clad young women doing give aways of free stuff based on your wristband number. They must have given away a hundred different items. I didn't win, :( .

Around 2AM, I realized that I had been gaming for ten hours straight and was having trouble staying alert, as I nodded off while waiting to respawn. I decided to go home. I packed up my stuff, made my way through the three levels of security that made sure I was only taking my stuff.

Overall, a good time, but would have been better with a friends to squad up with. Newegg did a great job in pulling this thing off and it was well worth the entry fee.

Posted by michael at 02:40 PM | Comments (6)
July 28, 2005
All about me

Today is my birthday. It's been a low key birthday on a hot summer day.

While I'm talking about me, I'll mention that there's an article about me at Tom's Hardware. Last week I met with David Strom, the Editor-in-Chief of Tom's Hardware. We had a nice chat, tour, and lunch together talking about all kinds of technology.

Posted by michael at 09:00 PM | Comments (9)
July 26, 2005
Lanfest in LA

I'm planning to attend the Newegg LanFest 2k5 this weekend.

It looks like a lot for fun with a Bring Your Own Computer section of over 400 seats for gaming. With Battlefield 2 and Call of Duty being played, I'll be in heaven.

So if you are a gamer, maybe I'll see you at the Lanfest this weekend.

Posted by michael at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)
Pure Pwnage

Being a Pro Gamer (like me) means that I'm always up on the latest stuff on the intraweb.

Previously I have mentioned my love of Xfire, the gaming IM client. Recently, they added a downloading feature to auto-download movies and other large files. Since I'm Pro, I download the good WoW & FPS movies and watch them regularly.

The Xfire crew recently added the Pure Pwnage movies, and they OWN. Pure Pwnage is the story of Jeremy, a Pro, and his brother Kyle, a noob. Kyle like works the camera and stuff and Jeremy just basically owns noobs all the time.

Pro recommendations:

If you are an all-around Pro (like me), then start at Episode 1
If you are Pro in FPS, then start at Episode 5 (BOOM! Headshot!)
If you are Pro in WoW, then start at Episode 6

Go NOW and download the episodes at Pure Pwnage.

If you don't play games (that means you Mom), this will be incomprehensible stuff. Mainly because you are a noob and don't understand the joy of owning.

Seriously Mom, don't download these movies. It will take way to long for me to explain it to you.

Posted by michael at 08:48 AM | Comments (1)
July 25, 2005
Chocolicious Wonkacakes

Loyal Cruft readers, I am quite vexed with you. It was only this Saturday that I stumbled across Chocolicious Wonkacakes at our local 7-Eleven. After reading my previous treatise on Sno-Balls, and knowing my love of gaily colored treats, not one of you had the decency to inform me that such a tasty new Wonka treat was on the market.

Note the freshness date is about to expire any day now. Had I not found the Wonkacakes, they might have been whisked off the shelves without any testing being possible.

Have no fear, I have done my research and can present the secrets of the Chocolicious Wonkacakes.

You simply can't resist this packaging. I mean really, if it's got Johnny Depp's face on it, you have to buy it.

Looks like the standard Hostess cupcake except in purple and orange. The flavor was not different that standard chocolate & white frosting. I was eager to taste some unique Wokna flavor like a Snozzberry, but no such luck.

The true beauty of the Wonkacake is revealed once inside. Yes, a purple creme filling is at the heart of the Wonkacake. Once again, I hoped for a delightful new Wonka taste and strained my tastebuds for even a hint of berry. Alas, it tastes like the standard white creme filling.

You don't think that Hostess is simply using the same recipe as their normal chocolate cupcake and only changing the food dye color? Naw...

Posted by michael at 01:36 PM | Comments (8)
July 24, 2005
Blogging about work

I was reading the paper this morning and saw this article in the NY Times regarding blogging about work. Fairly good advice IMHO.

"A blog can be a good way to vent about work. It can also be an invitation to a pink slip."

Check out the cool illustration as well.

Yes, it's behind the registration curtain at nytimes.com.

Posted by michael at 01:48 PM | Comments (6)
July 22, 2005
A year with Prius

I recieved the new car registration sticker for the Prius this week. Hard to believe it's been a full year since I first drove the Prius.

After 14,000 miles and a year of driving the car around town, to and from work, and several long road trips, I have to say it's the best car I've ever driven. My Saturn, the first new car I ever had, still remains close to my heart from all the memories, but the Prius is a superior driving machine.

While the whole electric hybrid car is the first thing people think about when considering a Prius, I kinda forget about it most of the time. After spending the first few weeks watching the Info screen with the charging and mileage info, it got boring and I stopped doing. After Michele had the Prius up at 105 MPH on the I-5 with plenty left in the motor, I stopped thinking about performance.

For those that do concern themselves about mileage, I get 44 MPG pretty consistently. Yes, I know people can get 60+ out of a Prius, but I'm unwilling to do things like leave the air conditioning off, drive at 62.5 MPH, and fiddle with my tire pressure depending on the weather. That's still phenomenal mileage for a sedan that seats 5, even several six footers.

The Good

What makes the car good is that it handles many of the little things well. There are three main tasks that the Prius handles in exemplary ways.

Keyless Operation

The keyless entry and ignition is fantastic. I simply walk up to the car and it unlocks. I don't have to grab the keyfob to push a button. The car realizes I'm there, unlocks the doors and lights up the car interior. Once sitting in the car, I simply push the Power button and the car starts. Again, the keyfob can remain in my pocket. Once you do this for a while using a regular key seems old-fashioned and useless.

Bluetooth Integration

The implementation of Bluetooth in the car is nearly perfect. Once again, you simply start the car and it automatically connects to your mobile phone and now the car acts as your phone. There are buttons on the steering wheel to answer and hang up on calls. The car even accepts Bluetooth transfers of contact into a car based Address Book. There are three pages of one touch dial buttons you can configure.

The intergration of the phone is tight with the stereo so that the car mutes any audio, even pausing a CD, when a call is occuring. Hang up the call and your music starts right back up.

The only drawback is that you can't switch between mobile phones while in motion. You have to be < 5MPH to get into the settings mode to do that. Not a problem for most people, but I carry a work phone and a personal phone, so it's an issue for me.

Navigation System/Electronics

Toyota didn't invent the GPS/Navigation system in the Prius, but they did integrate it well. Currently, I don't like driving a car without a Nav system. It's simply too nice to let the computer worry about exits and the details. I punch in where I want to go and the computer tells me how to get there and info about the the route. If I don't like the route it chooses, it's no big deal, I simply drive the way I want and the computer continuously reorients to the situation.

The deeply cool stuff is there in places like the location search. It's easy to type in the name of a place and call up it's location for use as a destination. But they went a step further and included the phone number as well. So when you call up a destination with a phone number the phone part of the car recognizes this and allows to dial that number directly. Who needs 411 when your car can do it?

The Bad

There are a few drawbacks to the car, but they are minor. Not enough to get rid of the car, but since you loyal Cruft readers are infohounds, I'll include them.

Motion Lockout

When the car is in motion ( > 5MPH ) many of the menus are locked out on the display screen. You can't enter a new location into the nav systems, dial a phone number, or adjust many of the car settings. The idea is that when you are driving you should not be typing. I agree to a point, but when you have a passenger in the car, they should be able to do this.

There is a third party mod you can do to the car from Coastal Electronic Technologies that fixes this, but I haven't done it.

It's not a computer

I use a lot of electronics in my daily life and most of them improve over time due to software revisions. Problems are fixed and slowly things get better. With automobiles it's a different story. The car is forever locked into being a 2004 Toyota Prius. I'm not going get an email one day that says that an auxilary audio jack is been added if I just download a patch. I wish that the car could get more features over time without resorting to the 3rd party haxxoring. In theory Toyota could rev the software int he car and provide improvements, but it's not in their plans. They'd rather have me buy a new Prius.

If you are considering buying a Prius, just do it. You won't be disappointed.

Posted by michael at 09:11 AM | Comments (3)
July 18, 2005
Los Angeles Radio Rumor

More good news for LA radio.

Howard Stern said today that Adam Carolla will be replacing him in Los Angeles.

Nothing would make me happier than to get to listen to Adam on my morning drive.

Posted by michael at 08:50 AM | Comments (7)
July 16, 2005
Moen Revolution

A few weeks ago, I read about the Moen Revolution showerhead on Matt Haughey's site. Our showerhead was seven or eight years old, so I decided to give it a try.

The install was a breeze. Just unscrewed the old showerhead, applied new teflon tape, and screwed the new Moen on.

I turned the water on and let the thing rip. The first thing you notice is the handle on the bottom to steer the water. It feels natural and moves smoothly. The dial on the handle is to change the kind of water stream flowing out.

The handle does drop down a bit and was bumping into the highest shelf of the shower caddy thing. I finally removed the top shelf and all was well. Michele decided that this would 'not do' and is now on the hunt for a new shower caddy thing that can accomadate the size of the Moen.

This is what I would consider the main showering mode. Plenty of water and not a lot of force. The children and I both think this is better than the old showerhead.

Next I tested out the special mode. It's described as "Moen's patented Revolution technology takes ordinary water, spins each drop, then twirls the entire shower stream.". Well, it's kind of like one of those kiddy toys for the backyard that whips around in all directions. Fun the first time, but no use for washing. And the flow isn't strong enough to be considered a massage mode.

This mode is the massage mode. But it's not much of a massage. The stream is just more than an inch in diameter and just doesn't have enough force to be considered a real massage mode. Now, maybe some dainty princess type might like it, but it was a disappointment to me.

Conclusion: The Moen Revolution is a nice showerhead, but it's not revolutionary in any way except the handle. If you like the way it looks, get it. If you are looking for one of those back-massaging showerheads, this ain't it.

Posted by michael at 10:18 PM | Comments (2)
July 15, 2005
Coke Zero

I have been wondering how the new Coke Zero soda is different than Diet Coke.

I couldn't tell from looking at the cans, so I decided to call Coke and ask.

Here's a recording of the call -> Coke Zero (1.5 MB mp3)


Posted by michael at 09:58 AM | Comments (15)
July 08, 2005

I'm on vacation here in Duck, North Carolina.

Part of the fun of being here in North Carolina is that I get to visit stores that I don't regularly visit. The closest large store to our rental house is Walmart.

At home I don't go to Walmart. California doesn't have a lot of Walmart and none in my immediate vicinity. Furthermore, Michele has decided that we are Target people, not Walmart people. Not one to argue with my wife, I have not been to a Walmart in recent memory. Recent memory is the last 15 years, or the time since I moved out of the fraternity.

I was first shocked when I entered Walmart and they had boogie boards on sale for less than $10. 'Wow, that's a deal.' I thought.

As I walked through the store my eyes began to glaze over like a zombie as my mouth said the words 'Wow, that's a deal.' over and over. From chicken feed to video games to air conditioners to shotguns, there was nothing that Walmart didn't have for a good price.

If not for the stern direction of my wife, all the cash in my wallet would have been sucked out into the Walmart registers. I still can't get the image of the first-aid kit for $9.82 out of my mind.

Photo courtesy of cousin James

Here's just one side of the sunscreen display. Amazing isn't it?

How in the hell does someone shop regularly at a Walmart and not end up endlessly wandering the aisles looking for yet another deal?

I wonder how early Walmart opens and if those first aid kits are still on sale?

Posted by michael at 06:08 PM
July 04, 2005

Fireworks, originally uploaded by Argyle.

Happy Independence Day!

Much love to loyal Cruft readers.

Posted by michael at 07:34 PM