Wednesday, January 21, 2009

14 Days with the Acer Aspire One: Day 5

Well, the aspire got light use today. I had no class, and thus no real reason to whip it out and transcribe or take notes. I did, however, play some more DOMO and finish my short paper.

The real highlight of the day for the aspire was the reaction that it received at my work. My co-workers were impressed by the little thing, and many customers who walked in and saw it on the workbench cooed at its petite adorableness.

So I guess this computer, like a puppy, could conceivably strike up conversations with girls.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

14 Days with the Acer Aspire One: Day 4

Well, my fourth day with the Acer was also my first day back to college classes. It was with me through the whole day. I was able to tap out an autobiographical introduction for one of my classes while listening to commentary on our brand new president's address. I did this in the student union's basement, comfortably using the wireless and no external power for about an hour and a half, and had plenty of battery left to play around with between classes.

All else that happened in relation to the Aspire involved people cooing over this strange, tiny computer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

14 Days with the Acer Aspire One: Day 3

My, what a happy day with the Aspire this has been. I got to take it down to the student union and configure it to talk turkey to my campus's picky-ass wireless network, and it went off without a hitch once I remembered the proper ports for the proxies. Still, getting the proper software (mmmm, Clean Access Agent) downloaded and installed took up about thirty minutes, and I did this all on the little three cell battery. Still, downloading and installing the program only ate up eight percent of the battery, and that was with the WiFi on, the speakers enabled, and the screen at full brightness. It's not an amazing figure, but it's a lot less abyssmal than the one hour battery life so many customer reviews throw around as an excuse to bash the poor little thing.

Yes, I believe I'm already getting quite attached to the little bastard. It's far friendlier and useful than I could have imagined, particularly in the keyboard department. Not only that, but it uses an operating system I had the distinct... 'pleasure' of using for around three years, and know the ins and outs of extensively. After three days, it performs almost exactly as I would like. Even the itty bitty screen has grown on me, shining back at me with its crisp imagery and quasi-familiar resolution. The freebie CRT monitor I use on my main machine looks like somebody smeared Vaseline all over the internet in comparison.

Speaking of the internet, I haven't experienced any problems with the WiFi cutting out, as I'd heard many other people who purchased the machine gripe about. I'm beginning to wonder where the line between the fault of the hardware and the fault of the user's treatment of it is drawn in customer reviews, if it's drawn at all.

"Oh no, I was just exploring this abandoned warehouse in Enon, Mississippi, and my WiFi signal conked out! Finicky piece of crap!"
I have been sitting here. For four hours. Using the WiFi on this little guy. I'm syphonning it off a floormate my roomies and I refer to as The Internet Fairy. I don't know if he's generous or ignorant, but we thank Jeebus for him every day. And you know what? Jeebus has been kind, and kept the wireless on this guy going strong. I haven't tried, say, sucking some interjuice from the library all the way at the administrative building across campus, but who the Hell tries that and genuinely expects it to work for more than ten minutes before an errant pigeon flies past and interupts your connection?

Additionally, I was finally able to test a proper game on this thing. Proper, of course, meaning something that did not come preloaded on Windows XP. I gave Dream of Mirror Online a try, since I recently picked it up as my current "MMORPG to Try and See What Everyone Likes About MMORPGs". It's free, it's simple, it's got 3D googaws on it. Reall,y that was all I needed as far as a game to test this was concerned. One major problem with getting games onto this thing is that it totoally lacks an onboard optical drive, which means no CDs or DVDs for me. DOMO is a direct download, so it was even more of a shoo-in for my first battery of game tests to the Aspire.

Let me say first that patching it was the most painful part of the process. The download went swimmingly, but the patching. I hate patching. Let's stop talking about it.

When I finally got it patched and booted up, and logged my ass in, I was pleasantly surprised when it ran the game comfortably. The game spat me back out in the field, surrounded by horrible monsters that caused no chugging or lag time. I minced defenseless piggies for about fifteen minutes, and decided to try the true ball-buster: Going into town.

Nothing is more painful for a computer, in my opinion, than trying to load a city area in an MMORPG on a national holiday. The sheer volume of people there was staggering, and even then the framerate only chugged when I motored through dense crowds on my way to sell my loot.

So, first game test passed. I don't think you can expect to run anything spectacularly taxing on the Aspire, but what the fuck do you want for $350 and 2 pounds? Until very recently I would have been skeptical such a cheap machine's ability to run a spirited game of Mahjong without shooting sparks.

As a parting gift for today, a screenshot fo the game honest to God running on the Aspire. If you're familiar with DOMO, please do not laugh at my cheap newbie gear. I am embarassingly new to the game, having just started two days ago.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

14 Days with the Acer Aspire One: Day 2

I regret to inform you that I didn't get a Hell of a lot of time with my new toy today. I did, however, get ot install some games on it. These will be tested tomorrow, along with WiFi capabilities.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

14 Days with the Acer Aspire One: Day 1

Last semester may have been the worst college semester of my life. The single worst event of that semester of crap was the destruction of my beloved laptop, Big Black Richard. Long story short, Big Black Richard took a dip off a classroom desk, smashed on the linoleum floor, and took all my final papers with it. Tragedy! Absolute tragedy! Luckily, one of the professors I owed a paper to was teaching that class, so he understood my predicament.

I first saw Acer's Aspire One at Staples when I was running in to check on a power adapter for another gadget of mine. It caught my eye as I passed an endcap on the way to the notebook accessories section of the store. It was blue, it was tiny, it was running Windows XP. Home Edition, but still. I did not touch it. I had, at that time, no means of paying for it, and could not afford to become entranced.

Little did I know that I had long had a check coming to me as a refund of some of my educational grant funds. The check had been waiting for me since November, but never got delivered. It's existance was never brought to my attention until I out right asked the financial aid office to check my balance with them. So, I now have some money with which to buy textbooks, and, well... I dearly missed having my laptop by my side, and had been pining over my friend's Eee PC for some time. Until very recently, I hadn't dared dream of spending even $350 on a computer. I can be a cheap bastard sometimes, which makes my compulsion to blog about things like electronics and media somewhat ironic. If I am contemplating a major purchase, it is highly likely that I will consider and debate it so long that the opportunity to make the purchase will pass.

So, after a few days of frantic, obsessive Googling and review-scanning, I decided that it would be better in the long run to simply grab the machine I needed and stop tormenting myself. Today, I went to Staples with every intention of maybe possibly I guess getting and Acer. Once I finally got it home, I immediately set to work setting it up. You know, putting Firefox, AVG, and Launchy on it.

Staples offers a return policy of fourteen days, so long as I have my receipt. Since this is my first time using such a small and strange device long term, I plan to document this probationary period here, updating once daily with my observations of the device.

Let me first tell you this: Like all netbooks, it is tiny. Eensy weensy. It's wider than my friend's Eee PC, but with an 8.9 inch screen, it's still almost half the size of a conventional 15 inch laptop. Since I had previously done all my mobile computing on an ancient Compaq Armada, the size difference is striking to say the least. Of course, one upside to its minute size is its weight, which is about 2.20 pounds. Even the three cell battery is tiny and light! I mean, Christ, look at that. That's a laptop battery, something you should be able to bludgeon a man to death with. It looks like a Charleston Chew!

Getting it set up wire-wise was no problem, naturally. It's got an ethernet port, contrary to some very strange reviews of the product I've read, and the power cable plugs in snuggly with no wiggle to make me paranoid that it will fall out at any given moment. If I'd wanted to use any USB devices, there are three ports crammed onto this tiny chasis, and two card readers. Hell, there's even output for a monitor in case the bitty little screen gets on my nerves.

The Aspire One also has the distinction of actually being a very attractive little device. The model I bought is a deep navy blue with some black, and even some chrome details on the hinges. The hinges are one of the most attractive features of the case design, really, with how they fit together and fold apart. They make the case look as solid and purposely designed as it feels. The power button serves a similarly sexy function, as it is small, lighted, and recessed into the case to prevent accidental pressing. The screen, when it's not on, is highly glossy and looks like a fingerprint magnet if I ever did see one. Better get a dedicated eyeglass cloth. The case itself is just as offensively shiny, making me glad that the computer came with a little case to slip it into whenever it isn't in use.

So far, I've run a series of very simple tests on the Aspire. After five tests, I have devised that it boots in an average of forty seconds, slightly slower than the Eee PC I keep mentioning. Of course, since it's running XP, this is to be expected. Sorry, couldn't help myself. The keyboard presents no problems as of yet, seeing as I've been using the Aspire for about four hours now and noticed no wrist pain or strings of alarming typos. I'm even typing this very blog entry on the little guy.

As for media applications, the reviews I read were very right in one respect: the speakers are, to be generous, absolute dick. They are tinny, they are cheap, and they are too loud. But, there's hope! Headphones! Other media tests included test runs on Youtube and CrunchyRoll, both of which loaded and played without a hitch after the Flash update. In fact, I am at this very moment watching Half-Life: Full Life Consequences in another window entirely.

So, until tomorrow, that is the end of today's Acer Aspire One update.

*goes up to the roof to get motorcycle and normal people close*
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Gyakuten Kenji - Fucking FINALLY

As none of you know, but could probably guess, I adore the Phoenix Wright games. I've played through the first three games at least twice each, and enjoyed every moment that I wasn't yanking out clods of my own hair trying to get Phoenix to follow the same bouncing logic ball as me. I did not buy the fourth game, as my basic take on it was, "But I don't WANT a new main cast! :( I want the old one! Uwaaaa!"

The franchise's upcoming offering, Gyakuten Kenji, offers a new game without shuffling the original characters into the background. Rather, it simply focuses on a different set of characters, namely Miles Edgeworth and Dick Gumshoe. I don't have any particular liking for Edgeworth, but the focus on Gumshoe fills me with great joy! throughout the first three games, he was the only character who I consistently liked. Phoenix got on my nerves, Edgeworth teetered between pitiable angsting and supreme douchebaggery, and I constantly wanted to slaughter the assistants. Gumshoe, on the other hand, I found to be eternally endearing and entertaining.

Enough about my weird fixation with a satellite character; let's talk about the game. From the discussions and videos I've seen of the game ,as well as the little bito f game footage you can see in the trailer below, it appears to be much more like a point-and-click adventure game than its predecessors in the series. As someone who used to be something of an addict of such games, this excites me greatly. Psychic powers? Not exciting. Old school frustrations in a new medium? GIMME!

Japan gets it around the end of May, so maybe we can hope and pray for release here before 2010.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

An Evolution in Franchise Milking

Ah, children, the new year is upon us at last. As many of you may know, Charles Darwin celebrates some anniversaries this year, including the publication of The Origin of Species. I had planned to do a little article on Charlie, as I'm quite taken with him. However, I realized just in time that this is a visual media blog, not a general blog. It is with this in mind that I bring you a feature on another one of 2009's evolutionary offerings: a god-fucking Dragonball live action film.

I won't lie (nor will you other brothers) and say that I didn't like Dragonball a lot when I was a kid. In a nostalgic sense, I still do like it. I still get in pretend ki fights with people from time to time. There are thousands like me, most of them in the 18-35 age bracket. This does not mean that thousands of people want to see it made into a live action feature with James fucking Marsters as Piccolo.

Back in the day, there were rumors of a movie with an actual budget coming out making the rounds in just about every discussion forum and mailing list. We became numb to it eventually, dismissing the possibility as remote and even laughable. Why the Hell would an American motion picture company want to produce a film based on a foreign series enjoyed primarily by ten year olds and nerds? I mean, especially when several Japanese-produced animated films already existed, why bother?

Of course, with the recent success of other nostalgia films like Transformers, it seems it would only make sense in this market to continue the trend of milking existing franchises for all they're worth. Things are on the rocks, so why not go with what appears to be a sure thing instead of trying something new? It might not make as much money as a totally original film would if it was a big hit, but why risk a total flop?

I know that sounds cynical, so I want to make one thing clear: I want to see this fucking film. I don't care if I have to take the bus and walk all the way to the theatre from the bus station; I will see it! My need for Spikolo knows no bounds. I don't even want to see it in a so-bad-it's-good trainwreck syndrome way; I just want to see what the fuck they're doing. As of late, I am way too fascinated by re-imaginings of existing series, and seeing Dragonball converted into an American action film would do me just fine. Just looking at the trailer fills me with a burning need to go see it, just for the sake of knowing more.

Something I find amusing is the sentiment in the online community, both within and without the YouTube comments on the video, that the question of whether or not the film will be awful can be debated. This is hilarious to me for several reasons, chief among them being the tendency toward frothing rage on either side of the argument. You're either an idiot for believing it will be good, or a depressive pessimist for assuming that it will be bad.

Here's my take on things: There is a slim but present chance that this movie will be good as a movie. The odds of it being a faithful and pleasing adaptation of the original are absolutely abysmal, and I think the internet as a whole will be a lot happier once it realizes this. In fact, let's not stop there. Let's get more general and offensive and say: No live action film adaptation of a non-film franchise will ever, ever be a totally acceptable adaptation. Never. There are several reasons for this, and I am prepared to list some of them:

1. If the original medium was not film, odds are it will not translate well to film.
I believe this to be where most critical failures of film adaptations begin. Let's take the example of video games, since they're a popular target for certain over-eager film makers more often than not. Now, many video games have interesting and engaging plotlines; this much is true. One would think, for instance, that Silent Hill would make for a fantastic film, and I did indeed make that mistake. However, you and I both forget that much of the entertainment that we derive from video games comes from slowly being fed bits of the overarching plot. This is, of course, why we get so fantastically angry when our insensitive friends spoil that Dumbledore kills Aeris. When you can't draw out the plot-feeding by having the movie's protagonist jump through the hoops of dungeon exploring, the plot will either be so condensed that it feels forced and rushed, or be adequately spread out and neglect several minor details. Either way, people will be displeased.

2. There is very little outside encouragement to make these movies good
Let's face it: If you slap the name of an existing franchise onto a movie, you automatically ensure that it will make some money. Even if it's just from kids, parents, and nerds hoping to see a trainwreck, you're more or less guaranteed at least some profit. The movie's worth is sort of artificially inflated this way. There's just as good a chance that you'll make tons of cash releasing an acceptable movie with a recognizable name, and not so good odds that you'll make decent cash with an exceptional movie from a previously unknown property. When you want some fast cash (and who the Hell doesn't?), there's less effort and more assured cash in just making a franchise film that won't cause viewers to kill themselves out of shame.

3. Uwe Boll exists
And he has ruined it for us all.