Sunday, March 23, 2008

Can You Find a Wii?

I was reading through the latest various news sites this morning and two things caught my attention.

The first was Mr. Squinty guy, Hal Halpin - founder of the Entertainment Consumer Association, and his little dissertation on how the EULAs (End User License Agreements) are getting out of hand and that we should do something about it.
EULAs are a real and tangible problem for our business. Quite simply, they're out of control. The best intentions of lawyers in the business aside, these contracts have become so unwieldy that they regularly infringe on consumer rights. Many would likely be unenforceable in a court of law. Others, consumers would be shocked to find out what all of that fine print actually meant.
He is proposing a committee get together and discuss the problems and see if they can't work out some sort of standardization. At this point I would be happy if they just got them to the point that they are readable with requiring you to have a 4-year law degree and that they didn't require the sacrifice of your first born child. Anyway I guess will have to wait and see if he goes anywhere with this. I think it is exactly the kind of thing the ECA should be working on and that doing so will help increase its membership, legitimacy, and clout.

The second thing that caught my attention was KBC Securities Japan, which on Thursday downgraded Nintendo stock from a "Buy" rating to a "Hold" rating and cut its 12-month price estimate by 30 percent to 57,500 yen ($580), according to The reason I latched onto this was that my friend Mike went through Perth yesterday trying to buy a Nintendo Wii. NOBODY had them in stock. How can they say Wii sales have peeked if they still haven't managed to catch up with sales demand 2 years after its original launch? Seriously, every console has always been hard to find during it's first Christmas season, but its 3 months after its second Christmas and you still can't find them in stock. Granted this is Australia. Anybody know the chances of finding a Wii in stores in the U.S.? Not just your local game store either, but in department stores as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Would you like fries with that?

Going through the drive through of a fast-food place here in Australia is a different experience than in the U.S. It has its own vibe and is missing the cadence one normally falls into with the voice in the speaker. They also don’t use the same lingo or assumptions. For example If you order a Whopper and you don’t specify “with cheese,” you get it without; which is the reverse in the states where cheese is assumed and you have to say “without cheese.” They also don’t recognize “diet” as a drink off the bat and sometime you’ll get asked, “Do you mean diet Coke?” I don’t get how a country that abbreviates even some one syllable words, doesn't get shortening “diet Coke” to just “diet.” Especially when that is the only diet drink they serve.

Once a friend of mine asked for orange soda and got the minimum wage stare combined with “umm… do you mean Fanta?”

“Do you have any other orange flavored sodas?”

“umm no.”

“Do you know that Fanta is the brand name and that they make many different flavors of soda?”

Defiantly, “yeah.”

“Then I’d like an orange soda please.”

The reason I bring this all up is that I have just come back from a quick trip to Hungry Jacks, the Australian name for Burger King, where I had to actually tell the drive through speaker girl to stop talking so I could finish giving her my order.

The normal problem is as soon as you rattle off the first item to the speaker box they are instantly telling you your total and for you to drive to the first window. Most of the time if you didn’t tell them what drink or size you wanted, they just assume no upsize and Coke. God forbid if you want more than one thing.

I was trying to order a Whopper with cheese combo, no pickle, no onion, with diet coke to drink for myself and a Bacon Deluxe with a large fries for a friend.

I got as far as “I’d like a Whopper combo…” when she broke in and started telling me my total. I raised my voice to continue, “no pickle, no onion” and again she started telling me my total and to please drive forward. I raised my voice more, “with diet Coke to drink please.” And again she started and I finally had to say “Stop talking! I’m not done!”

I didn’t mean to snap like that but it’s been building up. I meant to say, “Please stop talking” but didn’t. The whole process of going through the drive through here fills me with unaccustomed anxiety. I am used to the speaker voice waiting for me to pause before then asking, “anything else?’ Some times I’ll just go in and order at the counter to avoid the hassle. In the end though you should never be rude to people making your food. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that.

While I’m the subject there let me also tell you an important bit of information regarding the word “Burger” here. In Australia anything between two halves of a bun is a burger. It’s not a chicken sandwich it’s a chicken burger. This is really important when you see an item on the menu that reads “bacon burger.” This is not a hamburger with bacon; it is bacon on a bun and that’s it. The first week I was in Australia I ordered a bacon burger and then went up to complain that it was missing the actual burger.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Paying for Digital Download of TV Shows, Part 2

I just don’t understand why I never have time to write. Its like all I do is wake up, go to work, come home and eat, watch Daily Show, Colbert Report, Tonight Show, and Conan and its time to go to bed.

So starting up where I left off last. I have since bought 3 episodes of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." That does confirm that you can indeed buy shows from the American iTunes store even if you are coming from a non-U.S. IP address. All they care about is a U.S. billing address on the credit card.

As far as the show goes, believe it or not I’m watching them on my iPod screen. I used to laugh at the thought of watching videos on a little iPod screen. On one of my recent plane trips the guys next to me asked me how the video was on the iPod screen and I told him I hadn’t watched any. He said that somebody had told them that it was much better than you would expect. So long story even longer, I tried it and it is so watch-able!

I was lying in bed watching it and it occurred to me that from the distance I was holding it up it was actually be the same size as a decent sized television across the room. I tried to take a picture to illustrate this, but it didn’t work out due to lighting issues. In the old days I would have started dragging lights around, but I figured you guys would get the concept. To be honest, it was about halfway through dragging the lights around and taking some test shots that didn’t work out too well I figured you guys would get the concept.

I was explaining it to my friend Brad at work, showing him how good the video looked. He held it up to get the 'tv across the room effect' and then took it one step further. He held it even closer and "BAM! You got yourself a 40 inch plasma baby!"

Anyway, it’s so cool to have a portable television. I’m waiting for Jeremy to arrange to get his mattress delivered at the Ikea and am I bored watching some 5 year old bang his head repeatedly into the soda machine? Nope, I watching Summer Glau kick some ass! Granted the kid was kind of entertaining for a few minutes.

Oh and that reminds me… Cameron, not only is issue #12 of "Buffy: Season 8" out, but so is the first issue of the new "Serenity: Better Days" mini-series.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

iTunes Artwork LIES!

I was going to write up part 2 of "Paying for Digital Download of TV Shows" but although I did succeed in buying and downloading the second episode of "Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles" (which the internet seems to have settled on the acronym "Terminator:TSCC" which I will adopt) with my U.S. iTunes account, I haven't actually watched it yet. I just checked that it played, which it did although appeared to be stuttering slightly. That may just because my machine needs a reboot after running and updating the giant memory hogging ComicBase comic book data base. Its also my older, less powerful machine as my newer one isn't working after the move to Perth. I looks like its the motherboard.

Anyway I copied the episode over to my new iPod and it appeared to run on that fine. Better than fine actually, it looks really good on the tiny iPod screen. Much much better than I expected.

Now as to why I haven't watched it yet is because all that messing with iTunes has got me looking into why iTunes can't import the album artwork for the CDs I've imported. I can find them on Gracenote (aka CDDB) , which is where iTunes gets its track and art information. But even if I copy the album and artist information over exactly, iTunes still complains it can't find the album artwork.

For example I have The Eagles - Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2 which I had entered originally entered as "Eagles Greatest Hits, Volume 2" -note the comma. I changed it to match Gracenote and still iTunes fails. I don't have a lot of CD's imported, maybe 35ish if you count each CD for some compilations and all the CDs included in the Monty Python Instant Record Collection CD version (which has different sketches than the original vinyl records). It wouldn't take too long import the artwork in manually for the 25ish it pretends it can't find artwork for. But its driving me nuts trying to figure out iTunes is lying to me and not working automatically.

Also Foxtel is up and working and The Daily Show and the rest of my shows are one. I still don't believe its actually working... in both rooms. The guy had to run new outlets for each AND he installed a phone line in my computer room which had an phone extension running across the hall from the bedroom. Now the only thing that I need to cover with one of those rubber "cord you are running across the hallway" protectors is the power extension cable because there is no outlet on the wall where I have the TV entertainment center set-up in the living room. The point being he did it all, wham bamm, done and he was out of here in no time. Installation in the apartment in Brisbane took all day!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Paying for Digital Download of TV Shows, Part 1

I am looking at a few TV shows online that I want to watch such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Burn Notice, Dirty Sexy Money and season 2 of Heroes and Dexter. These are currently running or have just completed their run in the states but are only few episodes into their run here in Australia. One of my many deeply seeded problems is that once I’ve missed an episode, which I have on all the above, I won’t watch any more till I can fill in that hole. The current over arcing problem I have having which is the genesis of this long winded rant is that there are quite a number of episodes of these shows available as digital downloads on Amazon and the iTunes store for $1.99 USD.

One problem I have with buying the digital downloads is that once I buy something I am an anal retentive pack rat that must collect and horde all my treasures. With digital downloads I don’t have anything physical to clasp my frequently washed yet still grubby little hands onto. I need something to put on a shelf and display for all to see and admire.

“Yes! Look in wonder at my collection, admire my Lord of the Ring extended editions and bask in the glory of my William Gibson documentary.”

I have sort of gotten over that issue with regard to buying unabridged audio books from I have acknowledged the glory of being able to sort through the book covers in iTunes. I also know that if something happens to my computer I can download the lost files again from Audible with no hassle. Something happening like say just for an example just off the top of my head: I have them all on my work computer and the company suddenly goes under and I don’t get a chance to copy them all off my hard drive; I won’t be screwed. For that peace of mind I am somewhat willing to jump through the hoops they make me, a legitimate customer, go through when dealing with the Digital Rights Management also known as DRM. I’m pretty sure iTunes doesn’t offer you the ability to re-download a file you may have lost and although I haven’t checked into Amazon’s policy in that regard I’m going to bet it’s similarly a one shot download deal. This is also one of the reasons I prefer to buy a music CD and rip it into iTunes rather than buy it from the iTunes store. Though, I hear that the RIAA’s new hard line claims that is actually stealing, but lets not digress this rant into that ramble.

I don’t know if I can make the digital leap with television and movies yet. With audio books I know I have access to them in all the places where I want to hear them. I copy them to my iPod which I can listen to via headphones or through the car’s stereo system. Copying them from computer to computer is easy; in contrast with anything else iTunes / iPod related where it’s a pain in the ass. With a DVD I know I can just pop it into any player; be it an actual player in the living room attached to the TV, built into the computer, or even built into the latest console gaming system (thought lets not get me started again on region coding). I also get cool extras like commentaries and deleted scenes with the DVD collections.

The main point of all that can be boiled down to the increased chance of failure the phrase “in my computer room on a monitor” has when added to the question “Hey baby, wanna come back to my place and cuddle up in front of the latest Dexter episodes?”

Now the question I am asking myself is this: am looking at this all wrong? Should I just view the $1.99 like the fee for renting a movie or even seeing it in the theatre? Of those TV shows mentioned above, several of them are shows I know I’ll only watch once. If I was watching them as they aired during their regular season I wouldn’t even be thinking twice about them. So what if I spend two bucks to catch up with season two of Heroes. And lets say I do delete the files in a week, a month, or when I’m upgrading computers should I care? It’s only 2 bucks an episode to watch them NOW and I can still buy the damn DVD box set later when it comes out. Though looking at the prices for Dexter’s first season on Amazon: 12 episodes that would be $24 dollars for all the downloaded episodes versus the discounted price of $28 dollars for the boxed DVD set. I do see there is an option for $19 dollars to download the entire season, but this doesn’t really count for the stuff I am talking about since most of their seasons aren’t complete yet. Amazon doesn't appear to offer digital downloads of shows whose DVD boxed sets aren't available yet or at least not for Burn Notice. iTune's "buy all episodes" button is the same price as buying all the episodes individually for the incomplete 7 episode season of Terminator but does have a discounted $19.95 "Buy Season" button for all 12 episodes of Burn Notice.

I should throw in a couple of other issue such as living in a third world internet country known as Australia where there is no such think as an unlimited internet plan. You either pay out the nose for going over your download limit or they knock your internet speed down to dial-up speed for the rest of the month. Let’s also not forget the issue of storage space. These files tend to eat up hard drive space pretty quickly and become more and more unwieldy to try and transfer from computer to computer where DVDs sit nicely on the shelf and look pretty.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Minor Update

I just had a little time to kill since the new Perth Ikea isn't open on Sunday. So I updated my profile with cropped picture from the Hyper magazine article which is only a few months old and shows me with the more up to date short hair. I also moved some stuff around on the sidebar, added an Amazon Wish List link, fixed a spelling mistake, and got rid of a non-relevant link. I'm also looking into putting a RSS link up so poor little Cameron doesn't have to go through all the work of actually coming here to read these exciting updates anymore.