D. Herbert

Friday, July 29, 2005

Build-to-Order Computer: Insane Components Prices

Why would it cost $750 to upgrade your laptop from 256MB of DDR RAM to 2GB of DDR RAM, when 2x1GB laptop DDR modules will only set you back less than $230 from NewEgg? Why does IBM charge $320 for a single 1GB DDR module, when a similar one can be had at NewEgg for just $115? Those are some of the most egregious examples I've found, but all manufacturers I've looked at have done that.

Mind you, this upgrade can be installed in minutes using over the counter parts. You don't have to be a high priest of computerology to pull this off. For the other laptop manufacturers, why persist in overcharging for simple memory upgrades? I can do it myself (and most everyone who buys a laptop and wants high memory
does exactly that
, and posts it on their blog). And it's not just memory, this overcharging applies to pretty much any sort of over the counter part.

I also know that before the sale takes place is often when a company is most pleasant to the buyer. Why should I expect quality tech support from the laptop manufacturer if they're trying to screw me during the buying process? They're not even going to wait until the laptop breaks and
the customer needs them

Why? Because they figure most people who buy laptops don't want to open them up and fiddle with them? They're taking advantage of their position as mailing out a closed case that buyers won't want to open?

Is there some other conceivable reason? It looks to me like they just hate their customers.

Are there any manufacturers who don't do this? I'd rather buy from one of those.

Video Game Tool for the Blind

Quite a few blogs have linked to the blind gaming wizard story (via jkOnTheRun), which leads me to ask the question, how can existing games be made more accessible to the blind and visually impaired?

The obvious answer is to include audio cues. For a 2D fighting game like Street Fighter, this would probably mean some sort of buzzing noise that would change based on the distance between the two fighters. For a 3D fighting game like the new version of Mortal Kombat, the sound might change differently based on the direction of the enemy and such--although this would probably best be sent only to one player, rather than to both (so each player could get their directional cues separately if both were blind).

So I came up with a tentative solution:

It should come in three separate parts:

1) the actual device that would be used by the blind player. This could be a pair of headphones worn near the ears that would provide an extra buzzing noise to send information to the player, while the player still hears all of the normal game audio, or it could be a vibrating arm bracelet, or pretty much anything else.

2) The middle layer would be the same regardless of what game was being played or what output device was being used. It would constantly be receiving very simple input from the game (probably just a short list of integers and/or floats) and passing it along to whatever device software is chosen by the user. For a game like Street Fighter, there might be only 1 variable worth sending, namely the X-distance to the other player. There are already audio cues for things like jumping and firing projectiles ("ha-dou-ken!").

3) the video game would send that simple output to the middle program. The video game would never have to communicate directly with a special device, only implement a very simple interface to send info to the middle program (with separate info for each player if it is a multiplayer game). This means support for blind/visually-impaired players could be added as an afterthought to new and existing games--and would probably be very easy to add to old games like Street Fighter. (would the relative simplicity of Street Fighter, as compared to 3D games, make it easier for blind people to play?)

What do you think? Somewhere out there, there's probably a patent for this that's gathering dust...


Pedantic Word Exercise #1

Normblog discusses the latest from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (via Glenn Reynolds).

In it, Alibhai-Brown uses what is to my ears a very strange term: she calls the British anti-suicide bomber shoot-to-kill policy "this blast-to-kill policy."

On Google: the phrase "blast to kill" appears quite a bit, but it's usually in the form of "use a laser blast to kill the video game boss on level 3." Blast-to-kill is used in the rapper C-Bo's song "spray yourself" (explicit lyrics), but that's the only mention of the term I could find to mean gunshot blasts.

In my mind, I associate "blast" more with explosive devices than with gunshots. "Gun blast" on Google generally refers to the flame/noise produced at the end of the gun's barrel, not to the bullet itself. It makes sense to separate the gunshot blast from the bullet itself (referring to them as separate things) because they can be separated: use of a suppressor can greatly reduce the muzzle blast at the end of the barrel while still firing a shot, and one can create a gun "blast" without actually launching a bullet by using blanks.

It does not make sense to disassociate the actual damage done by the bomb from the bomb blast, because the blast is what creates much of the damage --and the rest of the damage is caused by the shrapnel, which travels with the blast, whereas a bullet is launched by the blast but does not travel with it.

What I'm getting at with all this is, did Alibhai-Brown consciously choose the term "blast" in order to imply some sort of equivalence between the bomb blasts and the police gunshots?

Failure of the Imagination

In yesterday's S.F. Chron. Letters to the Editor, there is a particularly bad entry:

The other thing that struck me was the failure of the Israeli to see beyond the violence to try to understand what caused it. His solution was the separation barrier, which simply enrages the Palestinians even more: the barrier is being mostly built on Palestinian land, separating Palestinians from each other and their sources of livelihood. The Israelis are truncating their territorial ambitions, but the Palestinians are expected to simply give in.

The obvious: it is perverse to blame the barrier for the bomb attacks that it actually thwarts. There were bomb attacks before the barrier and there will continue to be bomb attacks with the barrier in place--but they will be fewer in number. Would there really be fewer bomb attempts if the fence was entirely inside the green line as opposed to cutting into Palestinian territory in certain places? Would the Palestinians accept that fence, and stop trying to blow up Israel? If that were the case, why would Israel have needed to build the fence in the first place?

Less obvious: Does the anti-Israel crowd really care about whether Palestinians are free to enter into Israel to work for Israeli companies, supporting the Israeli economy? If they think Israel is such an evil, capitalist, colonialist enterprise, why are they so eager to have Palestinians work there?

Less obvious: What's really offensive about this (and the only reason I decided to blog it) is the idea that the Israelis have failed to comprehend the Palestinian viewpoint. The main newspaper in Israel is Ha'aretz, which is to the left of the S.F. Chron. Every day Israelis have been exposed to the left-wing viewpoint. Why do you think they went through with the Oslo Accords, and then gave the Road Map a chance?

The only failure of imagination here is of peaceniks who can't comprehend that the Israelis have given peace a chance and that the Palestinians are indoctrinating children from a young age to believe the most horrible lies.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Welcome to the Dherb-Log

Welcome to the Dherb-Log. I'm new here myself.


I'm not quite sure yet. I don't have the experience, knowledge, expertise, or insight to do what Glenn Reynolds or Tom Maguire or Powerline or Beldar (get well) do, so I won't try.

But maybe I will notice a few interesting things and add something to the conversation. I will try to keep it short and not waste anyone's time by saying obvious things or beating up easy targets or starting flame wars with other blogs just to get noticed.