Andy Laub

Andy Laub is a designer & developer in the Twin Cities.

Published Feb 05

Resistance is futile, I suppose »

Well, it was a whole four days before I broke down and bought Gran Turismo 4, but from what I had heard from certain people it is supposed to be nothing less than automotive ecstasy. I’m thinking that’s true, so far, and while I wasn’t into the 3rd installment in the series, I really liked the concept as a whole. The reintroduction of used cars as well as more niche vehicles (like the original Beetle or the M-B 300 SL Gullwing) will make this much more enjoyable, provided money flows more freely than it did in GT3.

The other reason I didn’t spend a lot of time with GT3 was the certain core issues that I just couldn’t get past. I wrote about those in May of last year (“GT3: I don’t hate it, I just don’t like it”):

…it has less camera angles than the previous game. Whereas before you had two third-person views, there is now only one, plus the requisite first-person, in-car view. Problem is, this view is completely inadequate. The camera sits too low and too close behind the car – to the point where the road ahead is sometimes obstructed by your vehicle, usually when a turn is immediately ahead.

They’ve now added a third camera angle between the two – one that is kind of mounted on top of your car. I think they’ve remedied the issue with the third-person view as well. I’ve not had camera problems so far, but I am still spoiled by GTA:SA’s clever resolution for this issue: pressing up on the left analog stick pans the camera above your car to see what the car itself might have been obstructing.

Another feature that this game is noticeably lacking is some kind of brightness adjustment. Shaded areas of the track tend to wash out to the point where, again, you can barely tell what’s happening, if at all. I am very pleased with the current settings of our WEGA, and I don’t think it should be necessary to adjust the brightness just for this game. The game I’m comparing this to which shall remain nameless does have brightness options. Thankfully, GT3 does at least have an aspect ratio option.

From what I’ve seen in the menus, it now has brightness, contrast, and saturation as well. Way to go!

What GT has yet to nail down is their segues between races. GT2 had the unavoidable automatic replay. So far in GT3, all I’ve done is the licensing tests, but that’s enough to drive me insane. If you fail one of these, the most awful music ever begins playing, and the game just sits for 5 or 10 seconds before relinquishing control to you. This means that you’ll probably want to pause and restart instead, which is instantaneous. I’d like to see Gran Turismo take note of the not-quite-so-popular Vanishing Point.

See, Vanishing Point has similar tests, but if you run into something that would cause you to fail, the action immediately stops. Two or three options pop up (I think quit, retry, and replay) and the camera begins to pan around the car, so you can see what hit where. You can watch this if you want or you can immediately try again. There’s a bit of ambient music and noise, but it doesn’t sound as though the game is celebrating your defeat.

Again, this has been fixed! I really like how they’ve handled the failed tests now (believe me, I’ve seen my share). As soon as you fail, the screen goes black and white and shrinks down to the left side – on the right side, it tells you the test number, gives you the “failed” message, and you immediately have the option to restart or exit. As an added bonus, the music that they use is from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so even failing isn’t so bad anymore. I wonder, did someone on the development team see my complaints or was I not the only one who had them? Even the sound effects (on the menus) have (finally) been updated; one of my more petty issues.

I went to see a local production of Les Miserables last night. Abe was doing sound for it and the cast was a mixture of high-schoolers from the Wausau area. It was a really amazing show. Granted it was not quite to the scale of the professional production, but the fact that this was put on entirely by a school-aged cast is uncanny. I was very impressed overall, and it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve had to turn people away nightly.

An Epic Tale »

Once upon a time, a young man was sitting happily in his apartment, typing away on iChat. All was well, for he had not so much to do at the moment. He realized he needed to get something from a different room, and when he stood, his bare foot felt wetness in the carpet.

“The skylight is condensing,” he thought, before realizing that he wasn’t under the skylight. He turned, slowly, to see a growing pool of water under the washing machine. Terrified and in a panic, he called his roommate, who was not at home at the time. As his roommate rushed home, he went downstairs, a knot in his stomach. As he had feared, water was raining into the kitchen.

Towel after towel was thrown at the flood, but nothing seemed to be working. After countless towels, many borrowed from neighbors, they started to see a dent. The roommate had to leave for work, leaving the young man alone and depressed about the situation.

The roommate’s parents rushed to help, thankfully, with the magical wet-dry vac, and with their help, the kitchen was once again dry, leaving only a very wet carpet upstairs.

Monday came, and the workday came and went. The young man came home to find five industrial fans and a dehumidifier upstairs, but at least the washer was fixed.

Tuesday brought a dry carpet, but the fans remained to dry the under layers and ensure that everything was dried out completely. Wednesday brought much the same.

On Thursday, the young man snapped, and could not handle the fans anymore. He wanted his office back to normal. Alas, it was not to be. Much unplugging and turning off ensued, and gave way to a fanless night.

Friday came, and upon returning from work, the young man was gratified to see the fans gone and the carpet cleaned. It didn’t take him long to return everything to its rightful place. Everything was once again well, leaving the young man to carry on as he had the week before, feeling fortunate that none of his stuff got wrecked.

And that young man was me.

I have restraint. »

We went to Best Buy earlier and were fortunate enough to run into a friend of ours, who revealed that they had the iPod shuffles in stock. We actually got to take one out of the package and play with it, and I was very impressed. All the reports on the internerd had me believing that it would be smaller, but the size is manageable – small, but not so small you could lose it easily. I think — well, I know — that Apple has another winner with this. The numbers pretty much speak for themselves, I think. We were told that out of the 40 they got in last week they only had 2 1gb models left. And this, as far as I can tell, is only because they are not advertised in the store at all. I did not buy an iPod shuffle. Amazingly.

I gave Ted an iTMS gift certificate for his birthday, and then found one from him in my inbox later last night. What a guy.

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I was playing Driv3r until I realized that playing that game for any extended period of time results in a state that’s not unlike being a complete and total zombie. There’s a quality about it that just slowly shuts down parts of your brain as you play and it takes real determination to escape from its grasp.

I installed the 10.3.8 update a few days ago, and lo and behold, my fan has mysteriously been acting up. I spent the morning downloading and reinstalling the update from the site instead of Software Update, repairing permissions, resetting the PRAM, and running MacJanitor. I just turned it on again after being away for a couple hours and it’s been silent so far, so we’ll see if all that had a positive effect on the Mac’s juju. I also downloaded Temperature Monitor which is kind of a nice little app, and re-realized that Applications/ Utilities/ Activity Monitor is where I can see what processes my computer is handling at the moment.

I read this book called The Deal and it was actually pretty good. It was on my bookshelf and I have no idea where it came from, but I could soundly recommend it.

I already told you, I have a compulsion »

Do I really need a Wacom tablet? Weeeeelll…

Anyway, I again came across Daring Fireball. God knows why I didn’t bookmark it before, since I enjoy it every time I read it. I (re)discovered it today through SpyMac, where there’s a(nother) big debate about OS X and whether it’s only security by obscurity. Short answer: no. Long answer.

Here is a good excuse to start another project.

Napster sucks!

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Remember this? Well, here’s the deal. We went over to Best Buy to pick up a copy of Napoleon Dynamite, but they were flip’n out of them! Idiots! Anyway, we went to the next closest store, which was WalMart. They had it, but even better, they had these sweet Transformers. When I was a kid, Transformers were pretty much my favorite toy. Anyway, these had to be the best ones I’ve ever seen, and lo and behold, one of them was the RX-8 from that video. I am debating buying it, but it’s $20.

I also bought Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and watched the making-of last night. I really, really liked that movie in a totally different way than I liked Napoleon.

As far as music goes, I downloaded three songs from The Last 5 Years, a show that I came across a while ago that I like quite a lot. I now have the whole album, which I’ll just link to instead for simplicity’s sake.

Finally, Blockland. I would give you the link but you can’t play it cause you’ll break the servers.

I’m Not As Irate As I Was 4 Hours Ago »

So the iSight has arrived after being delayed by a day for some inane reason relating to FedEx. I could rant for paragraphs about this, but I won’t because it’s here now and that’s what matters.

So instead, I’ll basically say this: Apple has done it again with the iSight. I guess I’m not much of a reviewer because I don’t provide much useful information and also don’t get products until a year after they’re released, but still, it’s nice. Typical Apple, surprise surprise.

You’ll perhaps notice that “contact” has been replaced with “et_c”. The et_c page has all sorts of things to see, so go see them. If you are looking for contact for some reason, click the footer and that will get you there.

On the iPod front, I am now over the estimated number of songs for my iPod (3,750, given that it’s 3/4 the size of a 20 GB, which is estimated for 5,000 songs). But my songs are shorter than average, I guess.

Also, now I like The Features.

Weekend Update »

Watched the SNL last night. Watching the Super Bowl now. Paris Hilton was unexpectedly good on SNL, as was Paul McCartney on the halftime show (probably the best h/t show I’ve seen). Go Patriots!

We’ve got 13:30 left in Q4 and the best ad I’ve seen goes to FedEx – Burt Reynolds and a talking bear? Fantastic. Runners up include AmeriQuest and Pepsi/iTunes.

Speaking of FedEx, they’ll be paying me a visit this week. Seems I am incapable of not ordering things.

Ted and his bro were in town yesterday and paid a visit. It was a fun time. His birthday is coming up and to celebrate he’s going to an Apple Store for the first time (I think). Cool. He also paid me a compliment on his site. Check it.

{Filler} »

February is the month that it is now what an exciting month February is.

I got a little bored (already!) with my current desk arrangement so I changed it to something that wasn’t so boring. I like it more, I think. I felt bad not using the Powerbook to its full potential before.

I also heard that Jay-Z song (see “music” for today) on an SNL rerun last week. It uses a CAKE song (Arco Arena from Comfort Eagle) as the background and that just made me not only buy this song, but import all of my CAKE cd’s into iTunes. 3,650 songs! I hope I can hold out for the next iPod and I don’t have to start selectively removing music. I have about a gig and a half left on it so I think we’re good there.

So Apple updated the Powerbooks again. I think there were some good changes, but nothing that made me jealous. I mean, sure, I could use another .5 Ghz in mine, and the trackpad thing is pretty clever. I like the motion sensor as well, and it makes sense to give the 15 and 17″ versions support for the 30″ display, since it seems like a lot of people use theirs for video editing. The only thing I didn’t agree with was the extra RAM, since you’re basically giving people one (in the 12″) or two (in the 15/17″) sticks they’ll have to displace right away anyway. But all in all, it was a worthy update and welcome for those who had their hands on their wallets for Powerbooks already. I don’t see myself in the market for another Powerbook for a long time – I foresee a G5 tower in my future, if anything.