Serenity! Go! Now!


If you’re a sci-fi fan at all, you owe it to yourself to see Serenity. My mouth was on the floor the whole time! Part of this is probably due to my love for Firefly, the cancelled TV on which Serenity is based. I’d be genuinely interested in how a movie viewer who never saw the show perceives it.

I’ll write up a full review eventually, but I don’t want to spoil anything right off the bat.

Dead man’s hand

I never thought I’d give in and start playing online poker.

Now don’t write me off yet! It isn’t quite what it seems… is more than just a poker site. It is in fact a newly launching Alternate Reality Game, or ARG. If you haven’t heard of this before, think of it as a completely immersive world, in this case created through clever web sites and voice mails (so far). I was fortunate enough to take part in the ILoveBees ARG last year, a leadup to the release of Halo 2. Great fun, and I’m looking forward to another experience. Here’s the relevant wikipedia for more background information:

Yes, you can play poker on the site. Its all for fake money, so no pressure. And a bunch of people are doing just that, seemingly oblivious to the deeper gameplay. (Their flash-based poker client is actually pretty nice) There’s also a mystery involving the dead owner, a valuable gun, murder, betrayal, gang conflicts, a crashed cell phone network, and more!

The game is still in its early stages, so feel free to jump aboard! A bunch of players congregate and discuss in the Unforums.

I’m playing the game under a pseudonym – here’s my profile. Add me to your quicklinks list if you join up! And no, the picture isn’t of me. There’s a preselected set to choose from.

ARGs are still a relatively young genre, the first major one being a promo for the movie A.I. So here’s your chance to be a part of something emerging. And at the very least, you’ll pick up some poker skills.

update: fixed Unforums link as per comments

Gaming can’t get no respect

During my morning news rounds, I ran into Clive Thompson’s most recent Games Without Frontiers column on

This guy truly Gets It. This installment focuses on the portrayal of video games in movies. He makes an excellent point that a recent rise in realistic portrayal of gaming on the silver screen can help to normalize the public’s perception of gaming. It isn’t all Hot Coffee mods in Grand Theft Auto and spastic antisocial teenagers, you know 🙂

Thompson’s previous columns are worth a read as well.

Google Remove

This morning I was doing a bit of Google searching, as is common. I noticed in my results that there’s a new option: “Remove Result”. Click the thumbnail for a larger screenshot.

I can remove a page from a single list of results, from all future searches I do, or remove everything on the domain entirely. Once a site has been removed from search results, an easy-to-overlook blurb at the bottom of the page informs that “Results have been omitted”, and offers a link to restore them.

I did a bit of searching on the topic, and discovered that “a small percentage” of users currently have the option.

I’m still trying to decide if this is a good idea or not. I have nightmare visions of the system being beaten (as greasemonkey gets around Google Print viewing restrictions), and companies removing their competitors from Average Joe’s search results.

That’s probably over-reacting. But something deep down inside of me cringes at the idea of users having censored searches, self-controlled or not. On the other hand, spam-site blocking does seem like a useful application.

DRM problems – solved?

Yesterday I posted about the problems inherent in DRMed music files, and one specific example.

Amazingly, Fox has listened to the fans who had problems downloading and enjoying the Firefly soundtrack!

According to a post on the same fan forum I mentioned last time, Fox now sells the soundtrack in unencrypted MP3 form! I haven’t accessed it myself yet, but plan on re-downloading very soon.

Quite simply, I never thought I’d see a major publisher listening and reacting to fans on this level or this quickly. Granted, this is still just an isolated incident. But maybe if I cross my fingers and wish really hard, it’ll be a sign of things to come.

DRM problems – case in point

As I’m sure I’ve ranted about before, Fox cancelled Firefly a couple years back after a mere 13 episodes were produced. Later, DVD sales were so high that Universal decided to make a movie out of it – Serenity – which hits theaters a week from friday. (glee!)

Today, Fox finally listened to fans and released the wonderful western inspired soundtrack from the TV show. For reasons unknown, it is an online downloadable purchase only. In DRMed wma format.

Here’s a link to a Firefly fan forum’s thread on the topic. This is a group of pretty rabid fans who are desperate to give Fox their money. Unfortunately, they’ve met with limited success in the ability to purchase and/or listen to the files. Mac users are shut out entirely for example, and only IE can be used to purchase the tracks. Users outside the U.S. are unable to purchase at all. Once purchased, a number of owners have been informed that their license is invalid.

I don’t disagree with DRM in principle – copyright holders are entitled to protect their work after all. But the state of this protective technology is still far too primitive to be put into practice. The only ‘successful’ protection I’ve ever seen that works reasonably well is iTunes. Its cross-platform and seems to just work. Providing you have an iPod of course, but that’s an aside.

When DRM prevents customers from listening to legitimately purchased music on this scale, the system needs an overhaul.

Random catch-up

I’ve been falling behind on blogging recently, I’ll admit. Here’s a quick list of stuff that has caught my eye recently:

WordPress is offering free blog hosting along the lines of blogger’s setup. Simply get in line at and await your golden ticket. I really love working in wordpress, and having someone else keep an eye on updates and general maintenance for me would make it even better! is an amazing web-based meta-IM service. I’m really excited about all these “web 2.0″/Ajax sites we’re seeing pop up. My only real problem with Meebo is that its too easy to accidentally close the window and log off. But its still a great product for being so early in development. Its great to see real applications that are entirely web-based.

Speaking of Ajaxy sites, is my new homepage. Its similar to Microsoft’s and Google’s IG, but better executed. I’ve never been able to stay logged into Google’s between browser sessions, for example. Plus, it lets you put multiple Gmail accounts on the page, something neither other service does. I can monitor my ‘real’ account and my spamcatcher at the same time! Netvibes could use a better, more relevant URL though… I keep having to look it up.

In library land, D-Lib has a great analysis article this month on the Google Print project. I admit a bit shamefully that I haven’t been following news on this topic as closely as I probably should. This piece was a good catchup.

Nintendo finally unveiled the controller for their next console, the Revolution. And the design is, well, revolutionary. There’s tons of potential for innovative, more fully interactive gameplay here, and I sincerely hope Nintendo follows through. I find myself more and more drawn to the innovative games over the newest hot shooters recently. The Revolution might be the one next gen console I invest in.

I also continue to really enjoy and learn from I’m trying to find a way to integrate my recent diggs into the site here, but I just can’t make it work with the design. Suggestions are welcome.

That’s all for now, I hope to be back more fully in the blogging swing of things soon.

New librarian tip #1: Do someone else’s homework

As a new librarian, I thought it might be interesting to share things that are helping me to get acclimated to the working world. This is the first in an occasional series.

Today I received a copy of a “scavenger hunt” assignment that students from a business class must complete. I had a couple of open hours this afternoon, and took a crack at the list.

Hoo boy was that an undertaking. While I don’t have the exact questions in front of me as I type, they were along the somewhat obscure lines of “What percentage of people who eat Cheerios are under 17?”. Lots of market research, demographics and company profile info. I finished off my MLIS with a business resources class, but this was a whole new level!

I didn’t get to answer every question exactly, but I now at least have an idea of where to look for the answers. When a student comes in with questions about this assignment, I’m better prepared to assist.

And that was the objective I set out to accomplish. But along the way I picked up a couple of unexpected bonuses: Firstly, I’m much better acquainted with our business reference collection in general. Secondly, I struck up a conversation in the stacks with a student who was doing the assignment himself. We were competing for the same book, actually. The whole task also sparked some good conversations with my co-workers

In sum, it was a great integrating experience. I’m hoping to pick up some similar worksheets from our other subject specialists.

And the award goes to…

…Xbox Live!

An emmy, even!

Microsoft’s online console gaming service won in the category of “Outstanding Achievement in Technology and Advanced New Media.”

I suppose an emmy has to go to to one concrete entity – otherwise I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go to podcasting or some other general concept.