and, we are back

Well, that was unpleasant!

As this site has grown in pagerank, it’s become the victim of ever-more sustained hack and spam attacks. The latest round was bungled, it simply took me offline rather than silently harvest my mojo for nefarious purposes. It’s clear that at some point I am going to have to pony up several hundred dollars a year at sucuri.net or equivalent and pay for monitoring and cleanup as this is just too time-consuming to keep doing myself.

It’s not as easy to keep a blog running on your own host as it used to be. Astro hasn’t posted in two years, for example, and is sorely missed. I’ve got a paypal button on the site like everyone else but that’s not any kind of solution, increasingly being self-hosted is going to become a perk of the privileged who can afford it, whereas the everyday bloke who wants a soapbox will have to gravitate towards a free platform like wordpress.com – which is an easy target for censors.

It’s not like I have anything profound to say, really, but I see this platform as a luxury, and I am keenly aware of just how ephemeral it is. That said, I’ll keep plugging away as long as I can 🙂 So, I’m back – what did I miss?

(ah, Pete has reviewed my review of fractale! And, I think he did a better job on this than I would have. And, given his praise, he will be disappointed in me when I profess my love of Robotech over SDF: Macross.)

new PC build

I think we badly need another PC in the house. Of course this is sort of a strange statement given that we presently have a Dell 800 and Thinkpad 42 (laptops), an EEE 701 and a Dell Mini 10v (netbooks), the current kids/gaming rig (whose evolution I described in detail here) and an aging Dell minitower handmedown that originally shipped with Windows Me.

The problem is that I never got around to upgrading the handmedown, and am right now running the rig with the Asrock mobo, the AGP card, and DDR 400 ram with a dual-core chip. The Asus mobo is sitting around unused. My original plan of moving the DDR400 ram and AGP card to the Asus mobo and buying new DDR2 ram and a PCE-e card for the Asrock had a fatal flaw: it’s hard to find a decent PCI-e card for the Asrock, since all the compatible PCI-e cards seem to be discontinued on newegg.

Also, the rig gave me some major headaches the last few days. While playing WoW suddenly teh entire PC would completely freeze – not BSOD, but literally freeze so solid that nothing responded, not even the three-fingered salute. Only a hard power cycle would wourk, and then i would sometimes be able to boot up and other times the primary boot device would not be found. To summarize, the problem only triggered when doing heavy graphics load, but manifested as a boot device problem. I initially suspected a corrupt MBR or a failing video card fan, but why was there a connection between video card use and booting up? Ultimately after taking the PC apart, vacuuming the inside, and poking around, I realized what had happened – the fan on teh video card was full of dust (because the PC was on the floor.) This caused the fan to seize up, and vibrate the card – which was causing the SATA power connection on the hard drive to jiggle loose a little bit. This was because inside the case, the power cord from the CPU to both units was on the same bundle, and also rested a bit on the video card vertically.

Let me tell you, the diagnosis for the above was not as easy in real life as it was to type.

Anyway the PC is vacuumed, the power cords reseated and reorganized, and the PC is now up off the floor. And i was able to get back to Azeroth yesterday to tweak the guild settings and bank without crashing. But the whole affair made me realize that this was the only PC in the house that can actually play WoW at all – with the exception of the Dell Mini 10v, which is also kind of remarkable if you think about it.

At any rate, i need to upgrade the hand-me-down now, but finding the right PCI-e card for the gaming rig is not easy. I have two choices here:

1. persevere and find a compat video card for the Asrock machine, and build the other PC as I originally planned (though Id probably buy a new case). This will require about $50 for a PCI-e card from this list (if I can even find one!), and abouut $80 for 2 sticks of 2GB DDR2 667, along with a power supply and case (~$150). Total: about $300, and reuse of everything I’ve bought so far.

2. give up on the old Asus mobo and just redesignate the gaming rig as kids PC, then buy myself a shiny new kit. The total: $500. Only $200 more than the upgrade path, but sort of an admission of defeat.

I guess there is also option 3, which is to upgrade the present gaming rig as in option 1, and then redesignate that as the kids PC as in option 2. The downside, other than the total cost, would be that I’d be throwing away a perfectly usable P4 chip and Asus mobo. Admittedly these are outdated and ancient, but for a kids PC running W7?

I am just loath to discard the old mobo, and also the whole reason I bought the Asrock was this idea that I’d do incremental upgrades. I suppose option 1 would be the smarter route. but finding the PCI-e card for the asrock is the real sticking point – ive searched in newegg for every card in the list but cannot find the exact products. There are some similar matches, but I am uncertain if those would work. For example, the compat list has “GeForce 8400GS Foxconn GF 8400GS/256M” but none of the 8400GS cards on newegg are Foxconn. Would any of them still work? I need some advice here!

UPDATE: I am really confused as to what cards are compatible. Here’s the website for my asrock mobo; would this $100 card work? or this $40 one? if yes to both, what am I really getting for the extra money?

Glenn Beck’s crusade against Network Neutrality

Glenn Beck has decided Net Neutrality is the tool of the devil.

Thank god that we have a functioning techsphere, which serves as a factual counterpoint to nonsense and propaganda. The lack of any such objective source in the political blogsphere is basically the reason that I started geekblogging. Still, sometimes, the political stoopid finds you, no matter how far you run.

In a nutshell, this is why network neutrality matters.

Fledge retires… enter Otakun

I have a little announcement of sorts, which is entirely meta and has no real significance whatsoever other than the purely semantic. I’ve decided to retire my “Fledgling Otaku” nickname and adopt a new pseudonymous persona, “Otaku Kun”. If you’re so inclined, you can abbreviate that as otakun instead of fledge – and my email contact is also updated accordingly to otakun at haibane dot info.

I started this blog almost four years ago almost entirely due to the influence of Steven den Beste, who I consider my anime blogfather and inspiration for embracing anime. It’s Steven who christened me “fledgling otaku” and I’ve been enormously proud of that. However, with 4 years and nearly 900 posts, I think it’s time to stop pretending I’m a newbie and admit that I’m an addict, not just of anime but of all things otaku/geek. The category list at right bears witness to the absurd breadth of my compulsions.

I’ve also resolved to blog more regularly here, because I’ve found that much of what I’ve written has been invaluable as a reference in sharing these works of art and fiction with my friends. I want to try and capture as much of it as I can, and maybe even share it with my kids as they get older. So i will be posting more often, at a minimum.

However, I also want to try and shake things up a little. That means for one thing a fresh look and redesign, which I’ll get around to soon. But also I’d like to build a cadre of peers here to encourage more discussion and participation, because in every case I’ve found that when you folks engage and leave comments, I learn so much more, and am able to derive that much more enjoyment and appreciation from all of this. It’s a value multiplier, and I’d like for it to become the focus. I have some ideas in that regard but I’ll save that for later.

So, at the risk of giving myself multiple personality disorder, this is Fledgling Otaku, signing out. Otakun, the floor is yours!

Will the Apple tablet be a Kindle killer?

Apple’s announcement today of it’s new iPad tablet system (alas, not named Newton 2), running iPhone OS and featuring a 10″ multi-touch screen – doesn’t strike me as the Kindle killer that everyone is making it out to be. Yes, it will definitely be an ebook reader and will have licensing agreements with textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill and the behemoth book chain Barnes and Noble. But at a price probably around $1000, it will be four times as expensive as the Kindle, and despite the glorious full color multi-touch screen, will still not be as easy to read as elecctronic ink technology.

The price point matters – iPhone and iPod dominate their respective segments, but only because they provide tremendous functionality and design at the same price point as their competitors. Meanwhile, Mac computers remain relegated to niche market share, because they are such a poor value. The Mac OS operating system is innovative but for fundamental computing tasks – office work and online – most users are OS agnostic at best (Word is Word; Gmail is Gmail) and biased towards what they know (ie, Windows).

For the iPad to compete against Kindle – which has a huge marketshare lead and truly is to books what the iPod was to music, despite e-readers from Sony being around for years – it needs to compete on price and functionality. And there’s no way that the average person is going to be willing to read a 400-page book on an LCD screen.

I think Apple knows this, which is why it is courting the textbook market, the gaming market, and also putting iPhone OS on the device to keep it compatible with the universe of apps from the App Store. These add value to the device in the sense that they keep it a general-task device and not a single-purpose one. But in doing so they are competing against their own products – I bought an iPod Touch myself for less than $200 and I can run any app on it that the iPad will, and most are designed for a small screen so what’s the advantage of 10 inches? And why pay 4x the cost? Conversely why spend $1000 for a iSlate when you can drop a few hundred more and get a full-featured macbook? Or spend the same amount of money and buy a full-featured Windows laptop? Or spend half and get a netbook running Chrome OS, or a new Pine Trail netbook which can play real games like Warcraft?

Textbooks and other digital documents can certainly be made more innovative and hyperlinked and interactive on the iPad, but that media revolution will not be confined to Apple’s garden. And it’s a guarantee that Kindle v3.0 is going to incorporate color e-ink and a touch interface (though probably not multi-touch). Any new innovations in content delivery and integrating media and text will be just as exploitable by laptops and netbooks in particular.

And there are amazing new display technologies coming out – including color e-ink and hybrid CD screens, which will let other manufacturers build devices for ebook reading and media consumption at a fraction of the cost of what Apple can. I think that Apple has learned the wrong lesson from it’s success with iPod and iPhone and will end up doing everything poorly rather than a few things well.

UPDATE: Steve jobs dismisses netbooks, saying a netbook is “not better at anything! It’s just cheaper. But it’s not better at anything.” Shows how little he understands about netbooks. And he claims the iPad’s on-screen virtual keyboard is a “dream to type on” – yeah, right.

Does the Ring turn Sauron invisible?

One Ring to Rule Them All
The Ring
On Facebook, one of my friends posed an innocent question:

How come the ring doesn’t make Sauron invisible?

Indeed! Out of the mists of Facebook, a truly awesome discussion ensued. I found this reply the most intriguing and erudite:

The Ring doesn’t actually make someone invisible in the sense we understand the term. It shifts its bearer into the world of the Unseen (which is why it can’t hide Frodo from the Nazgul on Weathertop–they already dwell in the World of the Unseen). As a former Maia, Sauron simultaneously dwells in Middle-earth and the realm of the Unseen–so the Ring would not make him invisible.

Surely we haibane can contribute to this critical topic. What say you all? Agree or disagree with the theory above?

Spider Man 4 dies so that Warcraft may live

I don’t really care about the news that the Spider Man franchise under Sam Raimi’s hand is over, except for the much more important fact that it frees Raimi to work on the Warcraft movie instead. As Harry says at AICN,

I feel confident in saying that the next film we’ll see from Raimi is going to be WARCRAFT… which after AVATAR, the concept of world building that particular universe could be astonishing – especially in 3D – especially after what Cameron just unleashed upon the globe. World creating Science Fiction & Fantasy… done by visionary filmmakers … well, it is a premium. We got THE HOBBIT coming, looks like an AVATAR 2… but the word I hear is that today – the phone lines were burning between a certain legendary locale and Raimi’s folks about firing up the furnaces to forge the weapons of war.

Some time in the next few months, I expect progress. I’ve heard that Robert Rodat (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE PATRIOT) has put together one helluva script.

A movie technology arms race between Jackson, Cameron and Raimi with the Hobbit, Avatar and Warcraft franchises is going to be one fun hell of a ride.

Just look at this again – click on it, zoom in, and really look at it – and imagine it on the big screen, alive:

WarCraftArtSmall.jpg

Cowboy Bebop

Just started Cowboy Bebop via Netflix. It’s amazing. It’s clear how Firefly was inspired by this in so many ways. Theres not much to say at this point but it’s just spectacular on every axis – animation, story, characters. It’s really rare to see a science fiction treatment based in the Solar System and the terraformed moons and planets provide a huge canvas for the story. And yet you still have those 2001: Space Odyssey moments in the blackness and emptiness of space as well. The last episode I just watched even had a taste of Alien. It’s not all knockoffs but a really fresh take on these kinds of stories. Absolutely brilliant.