Nintendo DS

Last weekend I made a trip to the Unclaimed Baggage store in Scottsboro, Alabama. They gather up all the stuff people leave in their, well, unclaimed baggage at airports and sell it rather substantially discounted off of list price. Flickr pictures are here.

The big find of the trip for me was my Nintendo DS. It has some scratches on the outside, and is missing a couple of unimportant accessories, but the discount made up for it.

After a week of playing with it on and off, I’m extremely impressed. I know I’m a bit late on the bandwagon for the system, but I still feel it is worth talking about. I only own three DS games, and two of them are extremely innovative. This is largely due to the touch screen. The lower of the two screens is manipulated via a stylus, and this new method of control really revolutionizes gameplay.

Super Mario 64 DS is a remake of the Nintendo 64 Mario game with a few extra features. I never really liked the original, so wasn’t surprised when this one underwhelmed me as well. Thankfully, the new mini-games make extensive use of the touch pad and are worth a play. This game came with the system or I wouldn’t own it.

Meteos, my next purchase, instantly claimed hours of my life. The game is a twist on the old “blocks falling from the sky” puzzle style that Tetris made famous. This time you manipulate the blocks directly on the lower screen with the stylus. The gameplay feels more immediate somehow, really putting you in the middle of the action.

Today I celebrated my first paycheck by purchasing Kirby’s Canvas Curse. Unlike Meteos, which has an option to play via control pad, Kirby can only be moved around via the touch pad. The player has to draw paths for him to follow, and tap the little pink dude to nudge him along the way.

Neither of these games would be particularly remarkable, or even playable, if controlled via a standard control pad and buttons.

As a bonus, the DS is backwards compatible with Game Boy Advance games. I scooped up the original Super Mario Brothers game very cheaply. This back catalog is a big plus. And to top it all off, the system is wireless-capable. I don’t know anybody else to play against right now, but this fall’s highly anticipated DS Mario Kart game promises to be enabled for free internet play. Sign me up!

The Playstation Portable may hold the ‘sexy’ spot in the handheld gaming market, but the DS delivers a unique and fun gaming experience at more than $100 less. Kudos to Nintendo for trying something different.

As a disclaimer, Nintendo does have a high nostalgia value for me. I grew up on their consoles, and their consoles alone. It almost feels like coming home again 🙂

Helping Out

Today at work it was announced that we’re throwing open our computer labs to the large numbers of Katrina refugees who have ended up in the Huntsville area. Library cards and printing cards will be issued free of charge – Getting them access to our resources has been made a priority. This is after the public libraries’ computers have been very full.

One of our librarians put together a handout of sites relevant to the situation, and we have tentative plans to open more labs than usual and have staff on hand to assist person to person.

If you know anybody in the Huntsville area who could make use of these resources, please point them to the UAH library and/or drop me a line:


I was excited to discover Meetro last night. But now… not so much.

Meetro is an IM client that interfaces with AOL, ICQ, Yahoo, and MSN. But Meetro doesn’t stop there, and goes on to add their own IM service. The key is that the Meetro service is “location aware”. Enter your location’s address, and your buddy list fills up with people physically near to you. From there, you browse the users’ profiles to find those with similar interests. Strike up a conversation and voila, you’ve got a new friend to hang out with.

As a new transplant to the Huntsville area without a social group, this core functionality really excited me. An easy way to meet like-minded people!

However, Meetro has an achilles heel – nobody uses it. Or at least nobody in my area. At first I thought the client wasn’t even working – “within 1/4 mile”, “within a mile”, “within 5 miles”, and “Other Locals” were all showing zero results. I had to broaden the last category substantially to find anybody. The nearest person I’ve seen online so far is 146 miles away, and there are only five within 300 miles.

Which brings me to my point: I think there are simply too many options out there. AIM, Yahoo, ICQ and MSN have the market pretty locked up. How can a newcomer break in? Users established their preference long ago. Enabling Meetro to connect to these older services was a step in the right direction, but the key question is how to convince users that they need this extra functionality. They’ve gotten along just fine without it so far, after all.

Even when a user does venture into something new, how are they to pick an option? Google Talk? Meetro? Service XYZ? There are too many options for any newcomer to reach the critical mass of users necessary for success in a collaborative environment. A company almost has to be first to market, even if not the best – imagine if there were half a dozen capable alternatives to Flickr. They never would have gotten the user base necessary to justify continued development and improvement of service.

A site or service needs users to get users. I don’t tend to be an early adopter who sees this process firsthand, and so would be interested in a case study on how to successfully grow a user base.

Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers that Meetro catches on. But not holding my breath.

Magical Time Travel

One of the strangest aspects of moving for me has been that of changing time zones. There’s tons of little things that you just don’t think about being different.

-My free phone minutes start an hour after my brother’s do back east
-The Today Show is tape-delayed by an hour
-Evening news and late night TV are not delayed, so now I keep forgetting what time they’re on
-When watching commercials, the second time in the “Tonight at 10/9c” statements

OK, so maybe most apply to television. But it still takes some getting used to.

P.S. I finally got around to updating the clock and ‘Welcome’ box, for those reading not via the RSS feed.

Best Job Ever

Driving home from work today, I was in a bit of a funk. The general tone of news today had me understandably depressed.

A little later on, there was a knock at my door. I answered it to find a young girl, maybe ten years old. She was selling items for her school, in one of those timeless catalog promotions. As I halfheartedly glanced through the pages, she noticed that I was still dressed in my khakis, nice shoes, and a button down shirt.

Girl: “Gee, you look like you have a pretty good job.”
Me: “I’m a librarian over at the University. Just started a few days ago, actually.”
Girl: “Wow! That has to be the best job ever!”

I smiled, and bought something. This girl is going to grow up to be one heck of a saleswoman.


I’m still here and all is well. A number of people have contacted either me or acquaintances of mine, knowing I recently moved to Alabama and asking if I had come through Katrina OK. Don’t waste the prayers on me – they’re needed elsewhere.

In the end, Katrina’s eye ended up swinging further to the west of Huntsville than was originally forecast. We got lots of wind and a notable level of rain, but very little damage. The worst I had to endure was two hours without water. In comparison to other areas, I’m more than blessed.

So my absence from blogging (and responding to comments) is not due to weather, but in fact a combination of time spent moving and spotty internet access at my new apartment. But the new job is going well, and I’m quite happy with where I am!

More to come.