Andy Laub

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

Published Mar 06

Is That Weather? »

Today’s weather: High of 61 degrees with a likelihood of an attack by those aliens from War of the Worlds. Low of 49.

Back Off »

Quote:

I find myself overthinking my more recent, WordPressed stuff when compared to my ancient handcoded site as well. One of the things I’ve noticed is that if I go off on a subject that’s too specific and in-depth nobody comments, and it’s just kind of too much. I need to remember that my site is not a resource – it’s just there for interest. Not reviews, or how-to’s, just rambling incoherence.

I should definitely, definitely not forget this (again). Remember that time I hurt Jason’s head?

Simulation »

Nearly every video game, with the exception of some of the extremely eclectic ones (Katamari, I’m looking at you), is in some way a simulation of some part of real life. Driving, flying, hunting, shooting, whatever. Nothing new here.

But with the advent of the DS, Nintendo and friends have been working hard to simulate some new activities. Most worthy of mention are the dynamic duo of Trauma Center: Under the Knife and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in which you function as a surgeon and a lawyer, respectively. The gameplay and aesthetics of the two games are remarkably similar in spite of their different objectives, and both are addictive.

Between the two, Phoenix wins for being more mentally challenging, and also for being more portable. Trauma Center is more difficult to play without setting the DS on a well-lit, flat surface. You wouldn’t try performing a critical operation while driving the patient around in a car, and sadly it’s similar with this game.

Replay value, though I haven’t completed either of the games yet, is expectedly low, with Trauma Center possibly having a slight advantage. Regardless, if you have a DS you owe it to yourself to pick up copies of both of these game ASAP. I had an order for PW:AA on half.com for $55. Fortunately, it never shipped and I got a refund which I promptly applied to a brand new copy from NCSX. They also have Trauma Center, which is rumored to be disappearing soon.

Totally. Worth it.

Good News »

Results of Car & Driver‘s May 2006 comparison “$15,000 Cheap Skates:”

Some high points:

  • Quickest to 60 mph and in the quarter mile (8.7 and 16.7 seconds).
  • Most supportive seats and overall nicest interior. “Acura-grade gauge cluster.”
  • Set apart by handling — lane change faster than the competition and even the Corvette Z06.
  • Shortest and narrowest, while maintaining 42 cubic feet of cargo space and a flat load floor when the seats are folded.
  • C&D elects it “the president of economobiles.”

I don’t know why I’m so psyched about this, but I am. Score another for my favorite team. On another note, all of the above manufacturers with the exception of Nissan have clean URLs for these particular cars. To be honest, this seems to be the exception for Honda since the Fit page is treated like a microsite at this point. Still cleaner than Nissan’s, though — those are a mess.

Everyone’s favorite OS turns 5 today. Ars has words about that.

The Big Mirror. Genius.

I didn’t go to SxSW and all I got was this stupid torrent. »

Nope, no South by Southwest here. At this point for me to attend something like that seems like it would be a poor financial decision, what with the time I’d have to take off and the money I’d have to spend to get there. It’s not that I think it’s a bad idea; it’s just not something I’m ready for. Maybe someday.

But on a more positive note, I decided to get the torrents that PDF painstakingly analyzed and came away indifferent. Part of this is because to ask me to listen to 900 songs by anybody is a stretch. I listened to some and continue to experience them as they pop up on the iPod. It’s quite a variety, which is nice, and I haven’t run into any that are just awful. Except one.

The song They Cleaned My Cut Out With A Wire Brush by Happy Flowers makes me hurt inside just because of how incredibly bad it is. A brief synopsis: some kind of screaming; repeat the title; more screaming; then the title; band maybe falls apart at some point; then it’s over. You owe it to yourself to never, ever listen to this song. Ever.

On the other end, the song I was trying to think of today that I pretty much liked was Everyone’s A Winner by The Meligrove Band, which I’m not sure proves or disproves the “The + n” theory of good songs.

I won’t use it much, but chances are it’s something I’ll do with my next machine.

Driving, Real & Simulated. »

The search for a car continues. This morning I drove a 1996 Honda Civic DX Hatchback, and cemented the fact that I am now completely capable of wrangling the mythical “manual transmission.” It was really a fun drive, actually, in spite of its being one of the most basic cars I’ve ever been behind the wheel of. No power windows, no power locks. It didn’t have a tachometer and I don’t even think it had power steering. But the fact remains: I loved driving it. I just wish there was an EX version of the hatchback; as it stands now I’d have to look towards a coupe, sedan, or the coveted Del Sol.

Driver: Parallel Lines

I also picked up the new Driver game on Wednesday and finished playing through it today. It certainly makes up for the personality-free glitchfest that was Driv3r, but it feels different than the rest of the Driver series. I think it’s because this game has — can it be? — personality. I had plenty of criticism for the last installment, but I still stood behind the fact that of the sandbox-type games it really does have the best handling dynamics of all of them.

Parallel Lines continues with good in-car gameplay and supplements it with 1) good on-foot gameplay 2) fun missions and 3) a freaking good story for once. It’s a tale of revenge that starts in 1978 and concludes in 2006. It’s short but worth playing, and like the last Driver game the cars are varied and great-looking. New for this Driver is the modern time setting meaning we get to see some more imaginary modern cars.

Overall, where the last game was a hard sell even for people who liked the series, this is a game I don’t have a problem recommending. It’s reached the point where certain parts didn’t even feel like this series (in a good way). Give it a shot.

TiVo-ing. »

As of Saturday evening the TiVo was up and running, but not before the requisite setup struggles. The biggest issue is that TiVo boxes, unless shipped with OS 7.2, require some alone time with a telephone line to get going (most importantly, to initiate the software update to 7.2 so they can function on a network). Our TiVo was one of the unlucky ones, so that night we took it over to Abe’s parents’ house for a slumber party.

We picked it up Saturday morning, took it home, and lo and behold, it hadn’t updated the software (it was still running 5.4). So back to their house we went, to try to get lil’ TiVo up to date. Second time’s a charm, I guess, because the software downloaded and installed as necessary. Setup after that was really, really painless. The wireless adapter worked as advertised and within a couple minutes of getting the now up-to-date TiVo back home we were up and running.

Beyond that, I have to say that it’s totally worth it. It’s ridiculously easy to use, and we spent the rest of Saturday setting up some season passes which give you different options for catching every episode of a particular show. It also tries (emphasis on tries) to pick up shows that it thinks we might enjoy, which has been a largely unsuccessful effort so far. Fortunately you can give shows a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to help TiVo determine what your tastes are.

The only issue that I’ve run into so far is that some of the scheduling didn’t quite match up with what was actually on. For example, I scheduled two of our favorite shows (Home Movies and The Brak Show) that are now only playing late at night. Unfortunately, and I don’t know if this is a Cartoon Network issue or a TiVo issue, we got shows labeled as such but instead turned out to be 12 oz. Mouse and Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Regardless, the benefits far, far outweigh the drawbacks, especially when one of the benefits is coming home to 3,000 episodes of saved SNL.

Cabel Sasser, co-founder of Panic Software, has a ridiculously fun blog.

Jerks (a Brief List) »

Sprint

Yep, that Sprint. No question, I really do like them a lot, but I’m a little sad at the same time. About a month ago, they sent this to my published email address:

Hi Andy,

The Sprint Ambassador Team recently visited Andylaub.com and wants to invite you to participate in our Ambassador Program.

The Sprint Ambassador Program is all about exploring our latest products and services and allows you to give direct feedback to Sprint. We recently launched the Sprint Power Vision (SM) Network and want to provide you with the full experience, at no charge. Sprint Power Vision Network enables customers to download data at faster speeds and experience new data products.

So what’s the deal?

As a qualified participant, we will send you one Sprint Power Vision phone and provide you with six months of all-access service (at no charge). You’ll have access to the Sprint Music Store(SM) live TV broadcasts, gaming and more. Yes, you will also have unlimited free calling and data service. It’s a pretty good deal and all we ask for in return is your candid feedback (you decide how much and how often).

[ Registration information deleted ]

If you have questions regarding the registration process or the program, please email us at [ Email ]

We look forward to receiving your registration!

The Sprint Ambassador Team

I was really excited about this because it was totally out of the blue. Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify because I’m not in a metro area right now. Admittedly, it makes sense that they want people who actually have access to the service to test the service, though as a footnote, I was at Best Buy yesterday and was told that Wausau does indeed have the Power Vision service. Interesting, because according to the service map, they don’t.

Sprint Service Map for Central Wisconsin

I see no orange in Wausau. Image from Sprint.

I’ve been trying to figure out whether Power Vision phones are backwards compatible with regular PCS Vision, and I wonder if this is the case of the salespeople just being confused. They said they used their demo A900 (dreamboat!) to browse the web all the time, but what if that just means it can get on the regular Vision network and isn’t necessarily on Power Vision? Maybe I need to stop overanalyzing?

H & R Block

Just get your shit together and let me e-file my state returns. I’ve been waiting for 2 months now.

TiVo

Much to the chagrin of many, many TiVo enthusiasts, TiVo is raising their monthly fees (to include free boxes) and dropping their beloved lifetime subscription. I am a firm believer that a lifetime subscription (meaning you receive unlimited TiVo service for the life of your TiVo unit) is the only way to go. I know several people who’ve saved hundreds of dollars already by buying it outright.

If you are considering a TiVo, now is the time. Lifetime subscriptions are still available for all boxes purchased through tomorrow (according to TiVo’s sales department) so I recommend biting the bullet and just getting one. Otherwise there is eBay, which is a viable alternative because the subscription is attached to the box and not the user. However, we all know how eBay gets when it comes down to supply and demand, and I have a feeling that demand is going to be up there in this case.

Abe and I have been back and forth on the TiVo thing for nearly a year, so I guess instead of calling TiVo a bunch of jerks (which they are), we should thank them for finally giving us the kick in the ass we needed to just go and buy one. We picked up an 80-hour model yesterday at Best Buy. Total cost: $220 box + $300 service + $50 wireless adapter = $570.

Current Vehicular Obsession, volume 2 »

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s mumbling I was thinking about other viable alternatives to the used car game. I’ve said numerous times that I wouldn’t be opposed to a lease if I was living farther from work. In my mind, that accounts for a lease payment of around $200 per month with insurance being another $100.

But what if that monthly lease payment were closer to $100? That changes the whole ballgame. It’s not unheard of for cars that are either a) really cheap or b) really average to reach this during some of the larger clearance events. The car in mind is the yet-to-be-released Honda Fit, one that I fall more and more in love with with each sentence I read about it. Obviously they’re not going to have $100 a month leases on a just-released car, but Honda has a history of doing some pretty great offers. Examples: Acura RSX-S, $230; Honda Accord EX-V6 (usually closer to $350), $230; Honda Pilot EX, $280; Honda Ridgeline (when I first looked it was close to $500), $300; etc.

Let’s look hard at that last one. The Ridgeline was on a similar release cycle to the Fit; it came out around this time last year as a very early 2006 model, and by the end of the year they were doing some really cheap leases on them. With that in mind I don’t see it being a huge stretch for the Fit to reach the $100 mark given its $13,000 base price. A Civic would also be alright, but I can’t get out of my head a nighthawk black pearl (or taffeta white) Fit Sport with a 5-speed.

Anyway, Edmunds seems to like it.

Because everyone secretly wants to park their car on the balcony of their apartment.

Current Vehicular Obsessions, volume 1 »

So it shouldn’t be any big surprise that I still haven’t bought a car. But I’m looking! Here’s what at for (5-speed, please):

  1. Ford Focus ZX3 / ZX5: There’s just… something about these that I like. I don’t know why, but they’re so Euro without actually being Euro, and Golfish without being VWs.
  2. Honda Civic Del Sol Si: A Wisconsinite’s dream. You say it’s a coupe…and a convertible? Amazing! Targas are the best!
  3. Hyundai Elantra GT: If the Focus is a pseudo-Golf, than this is the pseudo-Saab – a cute little 5-door with a heart of gold and a 100K mile warranty. And if it’s got the GT suffix, it must be sporty, yes?
  4. Saab 900 / 9-3: Yep, still hot.

Someday.

In a Name »

Pretty much everyone I know calls me Andy and has been doing so for awhile. The notable exception is anyone from my family, who has always known me as Andrew.

It’s strange then, for me, when friends call me Andrew or relatives call me Andy, since it just doesn’t sound right when they say that. It almost is a little off-putting since Andrew has a more authoritative sound to it, making it seem as though I’m either in trouble or expected to follow instructions. Because of that, I don’t really care for that name except from the exceptions noted above.

At the same time, I find it strange when relatives call me Andy, as though they’re trying to be all buddy-buddy when it’s not necessary. It’s not that I really care strongly either way, but like I said before, it just resonates oddly.

The New Workout Plan. »

Great song.

But anyway, no. Today I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for a month’s use of the exercise room and pool of the hotel attached to our building. It’s about the same price per month as a membership to the YMCA but wins because it’s an indoor walk to the facility and I’ve never seen anybody there. So today I used it for the second time and I plan to try to keep using it and hopefully get back into some sort of shape this year. I had a good start last year with the frequent tennis matches but that dropped after the temperatures did the same, and I didn’t bike as much as I should have either.

The other major factor in this equation is the fact that I actually am paying a fee to use the equipment so it will hopefully motivate me to get my money’s worth, and in the end $30 is a small price to pay for feeling better about myself.

Waxy.org attempts to preserve yet another satirical cartoon under attack by lawyers.

I Need Every Danny Elfman Song Ever Recorded. »

Something I (never) used to do all the time when I (never) used Napster and similar programs was just go on a total artist binge and double click every single search listing available for a particular query. This was back before it got all corrupted with half-songs and loops, or at least it was less corrupted with half-songs and loops (not that I would know, having never illicitly acquired music in my life).

Furthermore, I (never) did this on dial-up for quite awhile until we got DSL, meaning I could let my 800 assorted Shirley Bassey tracks all continue to download while I was off galavanting (not that I ever did, even though I could have (download songs I mean, not galavant; I did that all the time)).

iTunes sort of gives you that freedom, though it requires money, meaning you should probably be a little more sure if you want to buy a song and not just add every single Dolly Parton track to your cart on a whim. I suppose you could use Limewire or the like (but you shouldn’t; I don’t and never have and never will), but like I mentioned before you’ve also got to worry about misnamed, incomplete or flat-out broken files. Torrents are also (not) an option, but they don’t seem to work well on a track-by-track basis (based on third-person research that I’ve done).

I guess I’d better go spend some money.