Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What we have been going through

Sunday morning, 7:40AM. The wife and I wake up as sometimes happens on the weekend for various reasons (used to getting up that early during the week, nose stuffed up due to allergies, etc) wake up. We hear what sounds like the neighbors taking a shower, and don't think anything of it, but I decide I wanted to get up to grab some breakfast and relax a little before maybe taking a nap on a lazy Sunday morning. We open the door and the neighbor's shower sounds suddenly a lot closer and louder. Not really paying any attention to it, we decide to continue with our plans for maybe pancakes or whatever else we decide for breakfast. Gail decides to hop onto her computer to check her email, steps out into the living room, and ends up having her foot completely drenched, with water completely covering the surprised and suddenly cold foot.

I know it doesn't make sense that we didn't realize that water was all over our living room before we actually got there, the sound had been getting louder but we figured that somehow we had left the faucet on all night or some other silly thing. And we were rudely awakened.

So now two days later and several insurance phone calls later here is what our living room and garage (because it is located directly beneath the living room) looks like:

We know everything is going to work itself out, our insurance carrier is awesome and is helping us through everything, but for the next couple of weeks (months?) living in our house is going to be not as comfortable as we had gotten used too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blog back online

Had some domain issues, now hosted as www.ericbuschman.net. Welcome back!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Getty – Family Festival (Japan)

This weekend The Getty museum hosted a festival in honor of japanese culture.  I wasn’t early enough to see some of the more interesting things, just got to listen to some traditional drumming, and check out some lacquer artwork.  Here are some photos from the day (and a video):

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mac Mini

So recently I was having computer problems.  It ended up being a shot power supply.  But before I was able to resolve that issue I decided to embark on an adventure and try something new.  So I picked up a Mac Mini to tide me over until I was able to get my computer up and running.

First things first, the unboxing of it I don’t have pictures of (will get better at that since I got my new camera and am going to try and be more official in my posting).  But as with all of Apples products the packaging was clean, to the point, and very attractive.  The hardware was covered by a thin plastic scratch resistant sticker.  But other then that there was no packaging, the box came apart and there was the Mini.  Underneath it was the cables and manuals (etc), so the process of unboxing probably took 5 minutes at most.

Setup was easy, plug in the power (which comes with an external brick power supply much like a laptop), monitor, keyboard and mouse, and it was up and running.  The initial setup of OS X is simple and just involved choosing the current time zone, and the user account name you wanted to be your default user.  I would say within 20 minutes I was on the internet and surfing in Safari.

OS X is definitely a very pretty operating system, but coming from a Windows background there is a learning curve.  Instead of CTRL being one of base keys for quick commands, it is all done with the apple command button (looks like an apple).  I would say after getting Firefox loaded it took me at least 2-3 days before I wasn’t hitting CTRL-T to open a new tab and move to Apple-T.

The Finder application is in my opinion inferior to the windows Explorer alternative.  They wanted to make it feel different and break the mold that all other operating systems use, and in doing so they made something that isn’t quite as intuitive and useful as Explorer.

Gaming on the Mac Mini is as expected not that great.  The 8400M graphics chipset is not really powerful enough for the 23” LCD monitor I run at 1600x1200 resolution.  Running World of Warcraft on the Mini I had to do a lot of tweaking to get it to run smoothly, but once I got past the setup it worked great.

The reason why I returned the Mac Mini.  Well actually there were several.  First I heard that Apple might finally be announcing a Touch screen Mac soon, at least those are the rumors.  With a wife who is a graphical artist this would be something to keep an eye on.  Second when my desktop was back operational I realized that the Mac Mini was probably going to get pushed down to a glorified external harddrive, and I could buy a cheaper solution for that.  Thirdly with the up coming release of Snow Leopard, it seems waiting for new hardware with the new OS loaded already would be a more cost effective strategy if I really wanted to make the switch.

The Conclusion:

Apple products are very well designed, and work well.  I did not have any crashes while testing out OS X although I have heard of others having issues.  Without the support of the game development community the poor selection of games makes it not very interesting for me.  If I were strictly a web surfer / writer / coder / whatever I would probably end up going Linux for the over all savings.  But since I’m primarily a gamer a Mac will not be useful for me in the near term future.

P.S. Game Development Companies, porting to an Intel Mac shouldn’t be that hard, step up already ;)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Panasonic Lumix LX3K

Hey all, this is still not a review of the camera, I haven’t had enough time with it yet but here are a couple of first photos.

First the Sunset shot, not bad, I like that there isn’t the graininess you get from some other cameras on low light:



And here is a simple little bracketing HDR test with a shot of our current dining room table mess.

1) Normal shot:

2) Now an HDR touchup:

Upcoming reviews

HP TX2-1020US Touchscreen Laptop

Mac Mini

D&D 4th Edition Players Handbook 2

Additionally I just got in the mail a new camera so pictures and reviews to come soon:


Eye-Fi Review

Product Details 

Amazon Link

Description: The Eye-Fi series of Secure Digital memory cards are intended for digital camera’s.  Basically you set up the card with your computer and your WIFI router.  And whenever you turn the camera on within range of the WIFI router your computer automatically sucks the pictures out of the memory card and can additionally post them onto one of the internet photo sharing sites (Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, etc).

The Good:

  • Built with the idea to save time for people who take a lot of pictures and like posting to the social networking sites.
  • Some versions of the product support internet hot spots that are found around the country (world).

The Bad:

  • I could not get it to work with my WIFI Router using WPA2 security, as such I can’t give a complete review
  • The service will not work with RAW images, so if you are using a DSLR or other camera, you will need to set your camera to shoot RAW+JPEG (thus slowing down save times)


The concept of the product is excellent.  I think that unfortunately the usability is lacking.  Reading numerous reviews it seems like for those who it works for they love it.  But there are numerous complaints about the WIFI range of the card not being large enough, and the card not always being detected on the network so the computer doesn’t pull the pictures off of it.

So I would say hold off and wait and see where the technology is going.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kindle 2

So I received my Kindle yesterday (Wed Feb 25 2009). I don't have a full unboxing photo set because I was too eager to get into the product and see how it works.

Purposefully I skipped over the Kindle when it came out for several reasons include cost of item, number of books available, and newness of product. I wanted to make sure that Amazon would stick by the Kindle, and I wanted to see what user opinion of the device was before I took the leap into digital ebooks. Now this definitely isn't the first time I have used ebooks, I have read ebooks on my computer, PDA (~2005), and more recently on my iPhone. So it wasn't a big jump for me to read ebooks instead of more traditional printed material.

Since I bought the phone for myself it actually came already linked to my account. When I turned on the device it automatically downloaded the one book I had ordered before the Kindle arrived and was ready definitely under a minute to be read (not that I was ready that quickly).

I would say the basic operation of the Kindle 2 is intuitive. I was able to turn it on, navigate to the book I purchased and start reading without ever having to crack open a manual. After stepping through a couple of pages to get a feel for the device I went back and started looking at the manual. Specifically I wanted to know: How to change font size (nice little button on the front for that), how to change the sleep wallpaper (not easy, there are hacks for it but not in the manual), how to upload pdf's (again various ways, but most likely won't use the 'amazon' way of doing it). Tried a couple of the tips and tricks from the Kindle v1 hacks I found, they didn't work (wanted to view the time by hitting alt-T while in reading mode, not do-able, but if you hit menu it'll show you the time).

Phsyically the kindle reading area is slightly smaller than a paperback, and if you have the font size any larger than the smallest setting you are going to be flipping a lot of 'next page' to get through a book, this isn't a problem but it is something to be aware of. The weight of the device is definitely heavier than a paperback. I would say not as bad as a good sized hard cover book.

Turning pages is still my biggest complaint even though it is quicker (by 20% if you listen to marketing) versus the Kindle v1. I had situations where I wanted to glance back over a paragraph a couple of pages before and was a little frustrated by the 7-10 seconds it took to get to where I wanted to be, and then another 3-4 to get back. This is in my opinion more of a perception issue than a usability. Flipping back to the 3-4 pages before and finding the right chapter in a book could take 5-20 seconds traditionally. On the kindle I would say it would be more like 10-45 seconds. Not a big difference but the time between page turns is a lot more apparent and makes you feel like you are waiting for the Kindle to catch up even if the time isn't that significant.

The Kindle gives you a nice progress meter at the bottom of the kindle to show how far into the book you are, currently I'm 28% through my first book.

I'll let everyone know with an update how I like it after fnishing a book.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Video Games and side quests

So I know I haven't posted here in a while, but I finally had a topic I felt needed to be discussed.

Recently have I played several single player RPG games and have noticed a trend that I do not approve of. First though, some background.

In online games like World of Warcraft, you spend hours and hours doing quests around the game to build your character up in levels and other achievable goals (items, money, etc) and this works for the model they are attempting for. Basically they want everyone to have enough content to take them from a beginning player to an experienced player, with a character that should should be ready for what is called the 'end game' content. This end game content is only truly accessable for a subset of the subscribers who are interested in a more complex gameplay that involves banding together with other players and coordinating vast epic battles. Whether you like this type of system or not all about personal preference but as of right now Blizzard and World of Warcraft is about the best it gets for this type of system. Here is a link to my main character on wowarmory to show that I at least have played.

Now this post is not about World of Warcraft or even online games. It is about the superfluous amount of side quests in today's role playing games. The biggest offender I can point to is Sacred 2 and we will start there.

With Sacred 2 as you are walking around the game, you will encounter many quest givers in the cities, at one point in time while in the capitol city I looked at my map and I have over 10 quest givers wanting me to come talk to them so I could go kill 10 goblins, or run this note to their uncle, or whatever other worthless little task they needed a seasoned adventurer for.

In Oblivion (or Fallout 3 since it has the same issue) one of the best games in recent years, you have a truly open world sandbox game as they are called. Once you get out of the starter game area through whatever hoops they have you jump through, suddenly you are left with a world to explore. Bethesda is kind enough to give you a big waypoint arrow that you can follow along your main quest, but besides for that you can go any direction you want. And in doing so you can encounter hundreds if not thousands of quests to make sure every child's cough if soothed with plants, or every lost pocket watch is returned. Again, why am I the HERO of this story, playing detective or cop for every last non-player character in this game? And as such, being the basically lazy and easily bored individual I am, I skipped most of this wonderfully crafted and wasted (on me) content. I think I completed fallout 3 in
  1. Make the main character important. Mass Effect for all of it's bugs and issues actually gave the main character a voice. It probably cost the developers a lot of money to voice act the male and female character options, but in my opinion 100% worth it. Give the players some choice, but still make the main character a person
  2. Write the story before you code the game. The goal of the game you create should be to tell a stellar story. I know if hollywood can only succeed 1/10 tries why should game development companies hope to do better, but if you don't try, you won't do better.
  3. If you ever find yourself adding a mechanic to the game, lets say a button mashing sequence where you have to hit the buttons in time to changes on the screen. And it has nothing to do with your game but should provide your players a 'challenge'. Stop coding, walk away and go become a farmer or something. Especially role playing gamers hate this stuff.
  4. Be careful of the same trap writers fall into, if over 30% of the words in your game are made up words, you probably should rethink your plan. It just sounds silly.
Now if you can actually craft a story and don't fall into the any of the traps mentioned above you could still fail unfortunately. It is almost like the stars have to come into alignment for a game to be perfect. The interface, the visuals, the sound, the acting, the character personalities, the challenges to overcome. All of those things have to mesh well, and be of sufficient quality to truly rate a stellar title. It sounds impossible, but I'll keep believing in the system and dreaming of the next game that just puts a smile on my face.

I don't know if I actually accomplished what I was trying to do in this post which was to identify how the issues with current role playing computer games can be fixed, but I gave it a shot. I hope to hear back from others on their take in this matter.

edit: Grammar/Spelling