As previously noted, my New Year's resolutions were: get a real job, get a car, and move out of my grandparents' house. Well, I have a car and an apartment now, and my job seems realer every day (although if you want to help me get a job writing games in Canada, by all means, be my guest).

It was a fun weekend, and many thanks to Brad and Ben for helping haul and build furniture. The place is still a warren of cardboard boxes and plastic tubs, and this afternoon is looking like it will be another spent between building shelves and putting things on them, but the place is looking more and more like home every day. After a few calls to Cox I've finally got cable TV and Internet working, though I'm still trying to figure out how to get wireless running under Linux. In the meantime, it's a good thing I brought a long ethernet cable.

Apartment is nice, though the previous occupants had a cat who, as cats tend to do, made a mess of it. Got new carpeting, though, and I think everything's in pretty good shape, though you can still smell cat pee in the bathroom closet. This is one of the many reasons I'm a dog person.

(As I have recently been informed that I shouldn't be using my blog as a forum for presumably silly and useless "rants", I should probably note that cats have a right to pee all over everything if they want to and I have no right to complain unless I'm willing to breed a competing cat which does not stink up an apartment. ...Now, on the subject of that thread, I hate to be my own cheerleader, but honestly I think it's turned into a classic example of me helping a bad arguer make himself look stupid. What're the odds that when I poke my head back in Eric makes some potshot at me for not posting for a few days, and then immediately turns around and defends his refusal to respond to all my points by claiming to have better things to do? ...I really should finish my How to Argue Like a Complete Fuckwit guide, as this guy is a textbook example of the people I'm making fun of in it, but that's a presumably silly and useless "rant" for another day.)

Good to be on this side of town now, though; a 30-minute bike ride to work beats the hell out of a 45-minute drive. (One of the many nice things about riding my bike to work is it eliminates the need for a morning cup of coffee; I can get all the way to lunch before I need my caffeine fix. ...For those who didn't know, I gave up my precious Mountain Dew in favor of black coffee last summer. I miss the Dew, but I'm sure coffee's not nearly as bad for me.) Costco's right up the road for all my bulk-buying needs, and there's a Fry's Electronics not too far off in case I get hit in the head and decide I want to pay $100 for a DVI-to-HDMI cable. (Fucking Monster.) Also, as previously noted, this particular Fry's has an ass-ugly Aztec motif, complete with fake palm trees which seem to serve no other purpose but being in your fucking way when you're trying to walk past people.

I have also finally caved and gotten a cell phone, which has made me about as happy as I expected. Nothing like losing your signal twice while trying to talk to the cable guy. Also, I can't access my voice mail; I get a "number is unavailable" error every single time I try.

But aside from these minor annoyances, the new place is great. It's roomy, it has new carpet, and I can wander around without pants if I damn-well feel like it.

Break time again. Figure I may as well balance that "why I hate" I'd been meaning to write with a "why I love" I've been meaning to write.

My new favorite comic of the past year is The Walking Dead.

Actually, issue #1 is free online. Go read it.

Did you read it? Okay. You probably have a pretty good idea why I like it. But let me elaborate: the real reason I like it is that, twenty-four issues later, it's still that good. Things keep happening. From a premise that generally fizzles by the end of an hour-and-a-half movie, we've got a series that's still interesting after over two years.

I think the appeal is that we're looking at a microcosm of life. In this tiny community of characters, we see characters become close and then drift apart, families torn asunder, and a hero forced to keep the group together who finally starts to buckle under the strain. And we see all this happen at breakneck speed -- what we're seeing is life in fast motion, spurred on by the characters' knowledge that they could die at any moment.

It's easily the best zombie story I've ever seen, but the zombies themselves are incidental -- this story could take place on a deserted island, in an Orwellian dystopia, on a hostile planet, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (well, I guess that last one isn't so far off) -- in any setting where a tiny group tries to fight seemingly impossible odds just to survive one day to the next.

My uncle suggested that the draw of zombie stories is people's desire to see a story broken down into us-versus-them tribalism. I think that's a big part of it, but I think it's bigger than that: it's life distilled down to its component parts, people growing and changing and coming together and breaking apart, all sped up by the fear of imminent death.

And that's why The Walking Dead is my favorite comic right now. Some other comics I'm reading:

Transformers. I'm ambivalent about this one. On the one hand, it's nice seeing more G1; on the other, Jesus Christ how many times are we going to have to sit through the origin story?! By my count, there are already 5 different damn Transformers universes (G1 cartoon, Marvel comic, Dreamwave comic, Robots in Disguise, Armada/Energon/Cybertron) in the US -- I'm not even going to get into the various Japanese series that never made it over here -- and a sixth on the way in the upcoming (ugh) Michael Bay movie. Why do we need another one?

Don't get me wrong, the new comic's solid so far, but...why do it like this? Why start from scratch yet again? Why not do something that adds to the universe -- more War Within-era prequels, some stories set in-between G1 and Beast Wars, or even after Beast Machines? (Preferably some post-BM stories that are published by a company that has some sort of distribution besides ordering online and won't get its license revoked after four issues.)

Batman and the Monster-Men. Matt Wagner tells a good, solid year-two story (much better than, oh, say, Year Two), and examines a turning point in Batman's career: thinking he's finally got crime in Gotham on the run, he realizes he's instead created an arms race: he may have taken care of the petty thugs, but now he has mad scientists and supervillains to deal with. Add the fact that this is adapted from an original 1940 Kane/Finger story and you've got some serious fan service. Plus I just like Hugo Strange and don't think he gets enough play -- he is, after all, the original member of Batman's rogues' gallery, predating both Joker and Catwoman by a few months. That and I just dig Wagner's art.

Batman has always been one of my favorite characters, and always a book I simply can't stand to read. The character's been handled poorly for the past twenty years. But it seems that we're in a serious turnaround now, and with Morrison and Dini taking over his two books soon, I'm going to have to start picking them up.

Speaking of Morrison, good Lord that guy writes a lot of comics these days. Seven Soldiers has been fantastic, as has All-Star Superman.

Ellis has been putting out a hell of a lot of books too, and for somebody who hates superheroes, he doesn't seem to write much else these days. Iron Man: Extremis has been a great book, and I particularly liked the retelling of the origin in the most recent issue -- the original Iron Man armor is my favorite; it just looks like such a godawful burden to wear. And that was a vital part of the original character: Tony wore the suit to stay alive, not because he set out to be a hero. The reluctant hero theme in the early sixties was vital to ushering in the Marvel Age: Spider-Man was just trying to pay the rent, the Hulk and the Thing were desperate to cure their conditions, and Iron Man put the suit on because he had shrapnel lodged in his heart.

Tony's new nano-armor is a great arc-ending concept, but I'm not really looking forward to seeing it in-continuity. Hopefully it, like the Spider Armor, is done away with by the end of Civil War.

Dead Girl: I was a huge X-Statix fan from the get-go, and disappointed to see the book go (I blame the editors for not just letting the creatives run with the Princess Di story; I think any reader would agree that was the jump-the-shark point of the series). So it's great to see the team back again, and with the high-concept twist of exploring the very nature of comic book death. Dr. Strange is the perfect vehicle for this story, I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out who the Pitiful One could be, and the art is gorgeous -- I was worried when I heard Allred wouldn't be doing the pencils, but honestly with him doing the inks I can't tell the difference.

I've also been digging the comic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and it finally hit me last night that the protagonist is a dead ringer for Arthur Dent. As Gaiman is a well-known Adams fan (even wrote a book about him), there's no way this is coincidence.

Looking forward to work from Busiek (Superman, Aquaman, Marvels 2, and of course Astro City) and wondering what Priest is up to these days.

Oh, and Superman/Batman punked out: the guy in the Batman Beyond costume is Tim, not Terry. Booooo.

Seems like I must be forgetting something, but damned if I can think what it is right now. Well, I'm sure this won't be my last post on the subject of comics.

Break time at work; figure I may as well work on the ol' blog and some of the backlog of entries I've been meaning to write.

As previously chronicled, I picked up a Mac Mini for cheap at my old job and have been setting it up as an emulation box.

The first thing that struck me about Mac emulation is the prevalence of nagware and crippleware in the Mac software scene.

I mean, as a Linux boy I don't see a hell of a lot of shareware in the first place, but it seems to me that obnoxious, crippled software is much more common on Macs than even under Windows. Perhaps it's a simple Apple culture thing -- after all, the damn OS comes bundled with a nagware, crippleware version of Quicktime.

And in the Apple emulation community, one name keeps appearing, one name synonymous with obnoxious Mac emulators: Richard Bannister.

Bannister has a near-monopoly on the Mac emulation scene. Via zophar.net's Mac section, he has 2 out of the 3 Atari 800/5200 emulators, 2 of the 4 NES emulators, 1 of the 2 GBA emulators, both Genesis emulators, and the only SMS/GameGear, Game Boy (original/Color), TurboGrafx, NeoGeo Pocket, WonderSwan, Virtual Boy, Odyssey, and ColecoVision emulators listed for OSX to his name, and this isn't even a complete list of his catalog (which also includes an SNES emulator which you need a G5 to run for Christ only knows what reason).

How is he so prolific? Well, for starters, all these different emulators have a common library for support of such basic functionality as fullscreen and gamepad support, as well as video and sound filters and, if you're lucky, netplay.

The fun part is that this library is nagware and requires $25 to register.

Twenty-five dollars.

Bannister defends this price with the absurd rationalization that video games usually cost around $50. Of course, those of us whose ability to come up with analogies is not completely broken have probably noticed that if they're NES or Genesis games they goddamnwell don't. (Maybe Bubble Bobble and Dragon Warrior 4.) He also points out that "basic functionality" is a subjective term, though the mere fact that it's in his FAQ sort of indicates a significant number of people consider it to include fullscreen and gamepad support.

He also planned, at one point, to copy-protect the library using stealth spyware; the fact that he never got around to implementing this measure doesn't make up for the fact that he is totally unapologetic about it. (Well, all right, he apologizes for the confusion, and says that in the future he'll consider the possibility that maybe his users don't want to be spied on and treated like criminals. But he still stops short of a real apology.)

In the same thread, Bannister revives his "gamepads and fullscreen aren't basic functionality" argument, and when a poster suggests that a reasonable rubric for basic functionality is anything enabled in the console itself, Bannister shoots back that then his Game Boy emulators should only display in a tiny space. Which I suppose might make some sort of vague sense if not for the existence of the Game Boy Player.

Bannister's defenders deride his critics as "a few malcontents [who] demand everything for free". Now, why would people expect free emulators? Because on every single other OS, that's exactly what we get. Windows hasn't had a prominent shareware emulator since Bleem, and no prominent shareware emulator for a legacy console since iNES, which, if you'll recall, got its ass handed to it by the superior-in-every-way-and-also-free Nesticle, which many people consider the gold standard in emulation even today. And try releasing a shareware emulator for Linux or one of the non-Mac BSD's -- you'll be laughed out of town. Bannister is holding the Mac emulation scene for ransom -- something he would never get away with on any other OS.

Which brings us to the other reason he's so prolific: the vast majority of these projects aren't originally his. They're GPL'ed. For those who don't know, the GPL is a free/open-source license which requires any derivative works of code covered under it to themselves be released under it. But Bannister doesn't release his code under the GPL; instead, he gets permission from the copyright holders to release it under his own closed license. As he is quick to point out, since he's getting a specific exemption from the copyright holders and circumventing the GPL, this is not a violation of the license and is perfectly legal -- it's just unethical and generally slimy. Again, try pulling that in the Linux world and see how far it gets you. The only reason he gets away with it in the Mac community is that he's the only game in town. He's building his work on source which other people have released for free, but heaven forfend he himself do the same. I'm sorry, what was that about malcontents who demand everything for free? If Bannister's not going to pay his dues for reaping the benefits of GPL'ed code, he should quit whining about people who don't compensate him for his work.

I haven't tried to talk to Bannister. I haven't discussed any of this with him. Why bother? I've seen his forum posts. I know how he'd respond. Poor logic, absurd analogies, and a self-righteous sense of entitlement -- coincidentally all the same things he accuses his detractors of. I can't change his mind. But I can choose not to download any emulator with his name on it, let alone give him $25 for the privilege of playing Sonic and Knuckles. I already paid for that game.

It's been an odd month.

January 16th I woke up with an absolutely awful cough and took four days off from work over it. (It's gotten much better but still hasn't gone away entirely.) Had terrifying NyQuil dreams, and found myself much too lightheaded and muddled to make any significant progress for...

My NWN mod. That's what I spent almost all my free time on the following week.

Then on the 30th, I started a new job. It's 45 minutes away from my grandparents' house, and the commute has been absolutely awful. Fortunately, I've found an apartment; unfortunately, it won't be open until sometime next week.

Meantime, I've been shopping for amenities like a new, more lightweight and higher-def TV and a stand to put it on. Amid questions like "how can a TV be 1024x768 and 16x9?" (answer: plasma TV's have rectangular pixels. Weird.), I've taken trips to exciting new places like Ikea and that Fry's off of Thunderbird where there's that big giant "Fry's Electronics" sign right on the freeway, and if you pull off you find that the sign is actually adjacent to a Best Buy and Fry's itself is a quarter-mile away. This actually corresponds rather nicely to the experience of attempting to find anything at Fry's, although the people we stopped to ask for directions were much more useful than the average Fry's employee.

Also, this particular Fry's has an ass-ugly Aztec motif for some reason.

Moving back to that part about the apartment opening sometime next week, I'd really hoped it'd be ready by Friday so I'd have the weekend to move in. Under the circumstances, I think I'll grab a mattress, a toothbrush, my bike, my DS, a few days' worth of clothes, the remote control, these matches, and this paddle-ball game, move those in, and worry about the rest of my shit the following weekend.

Also I can probably bring in my recordings of the last few weeks' worth of The Daily Show, which I've missed because I've been so damn busy, and watch them on the bigscreen TV in the lobby.


Reading: The Lays of Beleriand, by JRR Tolkien. Because I just can't read enough different versions of the story of Turin, or Beren and Luthien!

I spent about 5 and a half hours yesterday moving some 200 websites over to a new server.

And it's a good thing I did, because the old server died later that night.

(If you are a pothead like my pothead brother, you have probably already started jabbering about synchronicity as if Buckminster Fuller were some kind of goddamn fairy prince instead of a scientist. If, however, you possess an ounce of common sense, it has probably occurred to you that usually when you move files from one computer to another, it is because it is reasonably likely that the original is going south.)

So, just to recap: four days into my new job, and I have already saved the Internet.

Is anyone keeping track of how many times I've saved the Internet now?

I think it's six.

Tags:

The contest is closed, and my mod, A Hero's Death, is now available for download and voting in the NWN vault.

If you have NWN and the expansions, please download it and give it a play. With any luck, you'll love it and give it a glowing evaluation.

But play fair -- don't vote until and unless you've played it.

Please feel free to leave feedback on either of the following threads:

(I'm going to copy this entry to the top of the page and leave it there until the contest ends, but at the moment I'm at lunch and for some reason b2evo thinks I don't have write privileges for my PHP files. I'd complain about the amount of irritation involved in switching to blogging software, but of course if I were still doing this by hand it would be 3.5 cubic bitches for me to update away from home in the first place.)

The Mod Squad

I've finished my entry for the BioWare writing contest. If you have a copy of Neverwinter Nights, I'd appreciate it if you'd download my mod, A Hero's Death (might need to a do a right-click, Save As, as neither Firefox nor Konqueror seems to recognize it as a binary file), and give some feedback in the appropriate Pyoko thread (warning: spoilers). The contest deadline isn't until tomorrow, so if you notice any bugs I could squash at the last minute, please let me know.

(Corresponding update to Features page.)

My New Year's resolutions this year: get a car, get a real job, and move out of my grandparents' house.

While I have yet to properly gauge the realness of my new job, and am still apartment hunting, I have achieved at least one of these goals as of today.

Beep-beep! Out of my way! I'm a motorist!

(Also, in turning on my radio, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that all my favorite stations were already entered as presets. If I were a pothead, like my pothead brother, who I believe may be some sort of pothead, I would probably attempt to make some sort of magical goddamn cosmic miracle of this. However, as I am a man of science, and realize that people who listen to NPR and classic rock aren't really a rarity, I just think it's kind of neat.)

I've been thinking a lot about this MAME business.

Specifically, I've been thinking about how some games are qualitatively different when you don't have to worry about quarters.

Oh, sure, most of the classics (Pac-Man, Asteroids, Donkey Kong) knock you back to the beginning of the game when you run out of lives. And most fighting games knock you back to the beginning of the match. But beat-'em-ups, shooters, and generally any coop multiplayer game relies on coins for its basic challenge -- even the worst player can brute-force his way through Ninja Turtles with unlimited quarters.

So I've been wondering how to keep that original challenge factor when I finally get my Mac Mini up to snuff and can fire up MAME with the guys.

And today, I stumbled on a solution:

Instead of using quarters, take drinks.

Make it a drinking game. Every time you have to hit the Insert Coin button, take a drink.

Feel free to use that one.

(Happy birthday Mom!)