narcogen's blog

A Killer App?

Mobile Banking - A Killer App?

Am I the only one who thinks that in the current climate, people are actually going to want to check on their accounts less, rather than more often? What's the driving motivator here-- paranoia or depression? Is it a sick fascination that will drive people to need to watch their retirement funds deplete even while they're on the go? Or will they prefer to just wait for the monthly statement to arrive, whether it comes in the postbox or the email box?

On Newspapers

Several items of note regarding the plight of the newspaper industry have come to my attention of late. This assumes, for instance, that there is such a thing as the "newspaper industry" at this point, disparate from the multimedia conglomerates, and such a thing as a "plight" disparate from the current financial crisis.

In particular, a college friend of mine, who still works in the industry, called my attention to one of many "save the newspaper" causes that have sprung up on various social networking websites. He also pointed out a piece at the Atlantic on the subject. Much of my daily reading is in the online gaming press, and one of the more popular outlets, Kotaku, also has ex-newspaper employees there, and they have mentioned the situation that their local paper is now in (here and here). I felt a need to somehow explain my relative lack of enthusiasm for this concept.

Given my own personal history it is somewhat difficult to come to terms with these events. Since I have not ever worked as a professional journalist and have not worked in publishing of any kind, in any capacity (save several different blogs) for more than a decade, it may be that my thoughts on this subject are outdated, or irrelevant, or that I have insufficient personal investment in the related issues for my opinion to carry much weight.

Nonetheless, newspapers do hold special significance to me. Learning to drink coffee and reading a daily paper, in my case The Boston Globe, formed a rite of passage into what I then considered adulthood. A change of schools and a change of majors in my first year of college landed me in a liberal arts program and on the editorial boards of two publications, a biweekly college paper and a somehwat more irregularly published literary magazine. At the latter, I learned the rudiments of electronic page layout, and at the former I applied them, eliminating the manual typewriter and typesetting system then in use. (This was in 1991, if you can believe that-- the desktop publishing revolution that Apple wrought in the mid-1980s still had not filtered as far as my suburban college's student newspaper six years later, despite the fact that the campus was lousy with Macintosh computers, everywhere except the newspaper office. Meanwhile, thousands were spent each year on typesetting.) That pattern repeated itself in graduate school, and followed me into my first jobs, where I found that being on the technical side of things paid better and better suited my personality. I worked at a local daily for about three years but later moved into doing similar tasks for nonprofit organizations. At that daily I initiated the paper's website, and went on to either establish or modernize sites at other organizations. Perhaps if I'd had more sense (or, rather, less sense and more vision) I'd simply have dropped out of graduate school in 1994 and gone directly into web design after seeing the first versions of NCSA mosaic; instead I mocked it as being silly and slow compared to Gopher.

Blame Canada

CNet strikes again. These guys are awful, although in the interest of accuracy, they're only rehashing a story from the Wall Street Journal, which is itself a few days late in reporting Microsoft's advice to Obama, which was to ditch the BlackBerry and go with an NSA-approved Windows Mobile device. The reason? BlackBerry data passes through RIM's NOC in Canada.

On Zunes And Squirting DRM

My understanding is that most of the restrictive Zune DRM has to do with the WiFi "squirt" feature. (Obviously this crippled what could have been the Zune's killer feature.) But iPods have no wifi at all; it seems silly to argue that iTunes DRM is less restrictive because it does not prevent you from doing things you couldn't do anyway.

Slashdot is linking another "Zune is dead story". The above is a comment on that thread.

Full disclosure: I've been primarily a user of Apple computers since the early 1990s, have owned several iPods, and currently own a MacBook and an iPhone. I do own an Xbox 360 but I've never owned a Zune.

The thrust behind the story is that, for whatever reason, the Zune has not made major inroads, and in these troubled times, MS might as well focus on what works reasonably well and what makes money, and that is Office, Windows, and the 360, and not the Zune.

Of course, why the Zune has not done particularly well is a favorite topic of conversation, as is the difference between the DRM schemes used by Zune and the Zune store compared to the iPod and the iTunes store.

Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Palm

This CNET article suggests MS switch its acquisition focus from Yahoo, to compete in the online ad game against Google, to Palm, to compete in the handheld space against Apple.

This is problematic at best.


Test locations



X-Files 2: Who Wants To Believe?

It's been awhile since I did a movie nitpick, and of the two films I saw most recently: X-Files: I Want To Believe and HellBoy 2, it's X-Files that gets the nod.

Not so much for the film itself, but for the very mixed reaction I've seen to it.

IMDB has fans who liked it, fans who hated it, and fans who were disappointed but grudgingly appreciative as only truly devoted fans can be.

It also had non-fans who liked it, who hated it, and some who thought it was OK. Some non-fans thought it entirely accessible. Some fans thought you had to have seen all nine (or at least the first six, maybe seven) seasons of the series to truly appreciate it.

So this nitpick isn't really going to be a review of the film; at some point, fandom takes over and makes a review something of value only to other fans, who all have their own reviews in their heads anyway. Instead, I thought I'd take a look at some of the more common of the criticisms of the film and nitpick those.

It Came From The 80s

I hardly ever do these blog meme things, but since I liked this one when I saw it on Heptarch's blog, I figure'd I'd do it. He got it from jenderelly.

1. How old were you in 1980?
Nine. 1980 was also notable as the birth year of my younger sister.

2. How old were you in 1989?
Eighteen. This was my senior year in high school; I turned eighteen that October.

First We Take Manhattan

Ron Gilbert at Grumpy Gamer stole my thunder with his succinct post on the monster movie Cloverfield. However, while he was pleased that it was a film that features a giant monster killing annoying hipsters/yuppies (do yuppies still exist?) I was annoyed that it didn't happen fast enough.

As always, spoilers, blah blah blah.


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