When did the comics get all serious?

February 14, 2008

Penny Arcade 02-08-08

One of my favorite webcomics is Penny Arcade, written and illustrated by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. The content material focuses mainly on video games, the gaming industry, and the gamer sub-culture. However, over the past year or two some more serious topics have come up, as the characters have, gasp, grown up a bit…. Click the strip above for a larger, more legible version.

Funky Winkerbean Landmines

Some of my favorite “real” paper comics tackle serious issue too. Funky Winkerbean, a strip I have read for many years, recently “killed off” a character, and reset the entire clock on the comic. All of the characters have been fast-forwarded 15 years or so, and their lives moved further into adulthood accordingly. Throughout however, Batiuk has covered topics like teen pregnancy, adoption, and U.S. servicemen returning home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries.

Doonesbury - Uncle DukeDoonesbury is always high on my list, but we have always expected serious topics from Gary Trudeau. His own characters are now dealing with issues like the massive number of brain trauma injuries to soldiers serving in Iraq, the elections, and the current administration. Trudeau’s characters are iconic, maybe none more so than Uncle Duke, the character based in part on late “Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

Trudeau ‘s cast has aged gracefully, at the same time introducing new cast members to introduce us all to the new issues of today. He even has a blog for U. S. Soldiers serving in the middle east called The Sandbox. Here’s a great Washington Post article on Trudeau. I am still mystified as to why his web site is still on Slate. It’s so…. 1999.

Jeremy - ZitsZits features Jeremy Duncan, a now 16 year old aspiring rock musician, and his parents, “who don’t understand anything. The fanciful ways that the strip bends and distorts reality reminds me very much of Calvin and Hobbes. The character often morphs into younger, older, zanier versions of himself, much like Calvin. I cannot express, now that I have my own near-teenage son, how much I can relate to Jeremy’s gigantic feet. Have you priced sneakers lately?

A newer comic with great characters, including an always smoking version of the creator, is Stephan Pastis’ Pearls before Swine. The characters are flawed, but lovable, and if you look closely you will see a lot of subtle gems hidden amongst the simpler humor. Here is today’s strip, for Valentines Day: Pearls - 02-14-08

Charlie Brown - Schultz I have a very soft spot in my heart for Calvin and Hobbes, likely the best strip ever, and I also love Peanuts, but I have left them off of my list for one simple reason – they are not being drawn today. While both are incredible works, but the one thing I like most about the comics is tomorrow’s strip, the promise of a continued relationship. What is goingt to happen to our friends? Will it be a light day, or a grave day? We know these characters, check up on them every day.

Like real life, the comics tug at our heart strings, and invite us along on great and wonderful adventures.

But do they always have to be so darn serious?


Ten Things that I HATE about Windows Vista

February 9, 2008

Windows Vista Logo

Yesterday’s question of the day over on Gizmodo was What don’t you like about Vista? This question tickled my fancy , since I thought, well, because… I HATE VISTA. I truly do. But I don’t feel badly, even Bill Gates hates Vista!

As a Microsoft consultant, I was an early adopter, first using Vista in beta, figuring I would need to, since it was inevitable, and that soon all PC’s would ship with Vista, like every new Microsoft OS before it had. The increased hardware requirements didn’t effect me, since as a gamer I generally only have a PC for a year or so, and my hardware is relatively current. I was set to go.

So I installed Windows Vista Home Premium, the 64 bit version. I used all new hardware to build the PC, and followed a standard hardware configuration I have used previously. My hardware list is important here as a control group factor, because I’ve built this same basic configuration in easily a dozen PC’s, both for myself, family, and clients, and it works.

Once installed, Vista proclaimed its temperate love for my new configuration by giving me a low, 5.4 out of 6.0 rating on my Windows Vista Experience rating (that sounds like and IMAX ride). My one low score was on my wimpy, dual core 3.3 gig processor. OK, there are quad cores out, so I figure I’m still OK. All my other hardware rated at 5.8 out of 6.0 or higher, with my video card and memory at 5.9. The Total Score rating seems to be based solely on your lowest score of the 5 components rated. It’s definitely NOT an average.

The latest incarnation of my PC includes the following basic hardware:

  • A Gigabyte M61P-AM2 Motherboard,
  • 4 Gigs of Corsair XMS2 – DDR2 800 memory
  • An AMD Athlon 6000+x2 Processor
  • An eVGA 8600GTS 512 MB GDDR3 video card

Wrap that in a $40 Cooler Master case, a $20 DVD burner and $75 SATA hard drive, a $75 power supply of your choice, and you have… The Ultimate $600 Gaming Machine. That’s another article though…

Every hardware fanboy will recognize not only these brands, but likely the specific models of these parts. I picked all of the from the Customer Choice Award Winners list at NewEgg.com. These were ALL best sellers, most with thousands of happy purchasers to their credit, before I bought them. I run the same configuration with Windows XP, and Fedora Core, with no problems. Ever.

At first I chalked it all up to being Beta. Who can bitch about beta software? The release version was worse, and it keeps getting worse. Here are the most obvious things that I can think of that I don’t like. Your own results many vary. These things have all plagued me from the day I got the product, and still plague my installation. Most I have given up fixing, and I am waiting for an open platform version of Mac OS.

Please add your own dislikes and grumblings in the comments at the end: Read the rest of this entry »

The Ultimate $600 Gaming Machine

February 9, 2008

I was writing another article, and I had to make a hardware list of my PC inventory. I realized that I have refined my gaming machines down to a standard set of parts over the years, that I buy the same basic list now, and it all costs less than $700. Actually, about $680.

I buy all my hardware from NewEgg.com, and every part I select is usually from their Customer Choice Award Winners list. This list is rated by the buyers of the hardware,. My logic is that if everyone else likes the parts, they will work for me. This method of picking hardware has served me very well for almost 10 years now, and I now have few hardware issues. I can also choose my price point for each hardware item, and then choose the highest rated parts for that price on the newegg site, which made it easier to write this.

So here’s the list, and where necessary a few notes. I have posted this as a Public Wish List at NewEgg. Oh, and I don’t make any money from newegg, but I like their service and return policies. Great pricing too.

Gigbyte M61P AM2 Motherboard – $75 – Gigabyte makes solid motherboards and better AMD motherboards, reasonably priced ones.

4 Gigs of Gskill DDR2 800mhz memory – $90 – GSkill makes great gaming memory – cheap gaming memory too. 4 gigs will be enough for any game you play.

AMD Athlon 6000+x2 Processor – $160 – dual core 3.3 gig processors. low wattage, great series for gamers. Comparable Intel Processor –

eVGA 8600GTS 256 MB GDDR3 video card – $140 – This is a great, low price point, 256 MB Nvidia 8000 series card. It will run almost any game you can buy at the highest settings, runs DirectX 10, and is well under $200. Nice.

Rosewill RP550-2 ATX12V v2.01 550W Power Supply – $70 – This power supply delivers 550 watts, quietly and consistently, with a cool blue lighted fan.

Cooler Master case – $40 – This case has great ventilation, can be set up with almost no tools, and is pretty sharp. It is also roomy and will hold additional drives and equipment if you would like.

$30 SATA – DVD Burner of your choice (I picked a nice Samsung one on my list)

$75 250 Gig SATA 3.0 gig HD. These items are fairly easy to find if you want to add HD space or more drives. required case under $50.

You can mix this up a bit by adding a sound card, for better sound, or a better graphics card. The key here is that you can build a great gaming machine for under $700 – one with a nVidia 8000 series video card, 4 gig of RAM, and a dual core 3.3 gigahertz processor.

Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions drop me a line.

Good Luck.

Have computer games become an alternate reality?

February 1, 2008

Second Skin is a movie about people who play MMORPG‘s, or Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (whew.)

They suffer addictions, fall in love, make money, and form communities complete with leaders and laws. Many spend more time in their alternate identities than they do in real life.

Did you know that there are people who were making a living by farming in the virtual world in 2005. Huh?

People spending 24 hours online playing a game is not unheard of. You can still see hundreds of characters and World of Warcraft Gold for sale on ebay for $9.99.

Heres 10 Ways that online gaming will change the world. This is a great article on the subject, and how quickly this phenomenon has grown, and will continue to grow.

If you know anyone that plays one of these games – talk to them about it. Ask them how much they play. Find out if they have any friends online, and how close these friends are, and how often they communicate.

Find out if your friends spend a lot of money playing games online. Most importantly, ask them why they like to play, and what they like about the game or games that they play. Soon you may be asking them to walk your avatar to the mall to go shopping at Armani.

This game is definitely different.

January 28, 2008

I am a gamer. A COMPUTER gamer.

Yes, a shoot em up, loud explosions, up all night computer gamer. Its a good hobby for an insomniac like me. A bit embarrasing for a 40 year old, but there are many more embarrassing hobbies out there. Model trains anyone? Stamp Collecting? Did those too. Not any more.

I recently was passed this game for consideration. Peacemaker is a game where the goal is to win peace in the Middle East. Now, I was a bit surprised too, and I’ll admit that I snickered a bit, thinking, “a peace game, that’ll sell”.

It’s an educational tool however, a discussion provoking tool, and it’s actually fun and challenging. Look at the people that have seen and endorsed this idea.

Impact Games is located in Pittsburgh, PA. You can download a demo of the game here.

They are looking for Beta-Testers. Sign up here.