Learning Japanese (sort of)

They (I don’t actually know who ‘they’ are) always say that learning a second language is supposed to be a good brain training exercise and a few times over the years I’ve made a half-hearted attempt to learn Japanese. Mostly it was because I wanted to play imported games and/or watch anime in the original language, but I never got very far. Japanese is HARD (for me at least). First of all they have 3 (maybe more?) written languages: hiragana, katakana (??) and kanji. So before you learn what the words mean, you need to learn the ‘alphabets’ so to speak.

Disclaimer: I am not a linguist so it’s almost 100% certain I will get some/all terms wrong in this post.

About a month ago Duolingo added Japanese to its Android app and kind of on a lark I downloaded it and started ‘learning Japanese’ and I put that in quotes because a month later I know some of the hiragana and if a Japanese teacher said to me — very slowly and with perfect enunciation — “Nice to meet you” I would probably understand. Or maybe I’d just think “I know that phrase but can’t recall what it means.” More likely the latter.

Still though, I’m actually enjoying the process. My latest project is figuring out the Japanese eShop on the Switch. Next week there’s a demo of Monster Hunter XX hitting the Japanese eShop so I set up a Japanese Nintendo account so I’ll be able to download it. Of course the store is mostly in Japanese. I’m sure I could stumble through it but just for grins I decided to try to translate some of the words.

The first word on the left menu was “NEW” and I translated that one pretty easily.

The next word was ランキング

I knew I’d learned some of these characters but couldn’t bring them to the front of my brain so I went looking at hiragana charts and couldn’t find any of them. Y’know why? Those are katakana symbols. In fact that was when I learned that katakana was different from hiragana. So once I knew that, it was pretty easy since katakana is used for ‘borrowed’ words from other languages. The characters in order are pronounced RA N KI N GU. It means exactly what it sounds like: ranking. So basically this is a listing of games my ranking, or most popular. (What helps a lot is I know pretty much what to expect because this is an e-shop for games.) I was pretty proud of that.

The next one was harder: もうすぐ発売

So the first thing is, I’m copying and pasting these characters from other websites. Different websites in this case which is why they’re kind of mis-matched. The characters on the Switch aren’t exactly the same. I guess fonts are a thing no matter the alphabet you’re using. So this one is a combination of hiragana and kanji. The hiragana part was pretty easy for me. Translated into romanji (Japanese sounds spelled out in the Roman alphabet) it says mo u su gu. Then I put mousugu into a romanji to english translator and I get “soon.” Given that this is the eShop it’s pretty obvious this is the “Coming Soon” list already but I want to do the full translation.

Looking up the kanji characters is HARD. I mean it isn’t hard if you look them up from this blog post because you can cut and paste them, but I was looking at them on the Switch, which may as well have been a piece of paper. I found Jisho.org which is super cool. It lets you look up kanji characters by ‘radicals’ which are the parts of a kanji character.

So for the first character, I first selected the “legs” from the bottom half, then the crossbars. That narrowed the selection of potential kanji characters down enough that I could find the one I wanted. Here’s a pic (click it to make it big enough to see):

You can see that those two ‘radicals’ were enough to help me find the character, labeled #3 above.

But here was a curious thing. Once I found it I looked it up and translation was “departure; departing (from …); departing (at time …)​” [Definitions are coming from Jisho too.]

Was I wrong about this being a Coming Soon section? Was it a “Leaving Soon” section? I pushed on!

I used Jisho again for the last character and it means “to sell” which made sense in the context.

But here is where it all got trippy. So literally this string is saying Soon Departing Sell. But why would Nintendo be removing games from their store, that doesn’t make too much sense so early in the Switch’s life. So I dug a little further, and it turns out those two kanji characters together have a different meaning. 発売 = “sale; offering for sale; release (for sale); launch (product)​” If you think about “departing” and “releasing” you can kind of wrap your head around how these could be so similar. If you release something it departs from you, right?

Anyway so now we have confirmed what I initially suspected, that this says “Coming Soon” or I guess more technically “Releasing Soon.”

What I don’t know, though, is how I would have figured this out without the context of this being the Switch e-shop. If I’d just read it on a wall somewhere I would have translated it as something like “Won’t be on sale for much longer” which is pretty much the opposite of what it says.

I just find this all super fascinating. Will I ~ever~ be able to read/understand Japanese (I don’t even dream of being able to actually speak it)? Probably not. But just translating words is turning out to be one of the most interesting ‘puzzles’ I’ve encountered lately.

Mixed reality at Microsoft’s Build Conference (and E3)

This week Microsoft is holding its annual Build developer conference. Yesterday was the Windows Keynote and as has been true for the past few years, there was a segment on Hololens, Microsoft’s augmented reality headset.

What was different about this year is that Microsoft has broadened its horizons some. While in the past it seemed like they were embracing augmented reality and to a certain extent downplaying virtual reality, this year they’re embracing both. In fact they’re backing away from either of these terms and instead talking about mixed reality, a term that encompasses both VR and AR.

As part of the discussion they announced new motion controllers for use with mixed reality, and at the same time they announced that Acer (and eventually other hardware developers) will release a mixed reality bundle this holiday. It’ll include a visor and a pair of the new motion controllers for $399. That’s really cheap.

Microsoft continues to embrace the “inside-out” tracking they first showed on Hololens. Rather than having to use an external camera (as with Playstation VR) or set up sensors (like the Vive uses), Hololens and the Acer visor both put the cameras on the visor itself. By tracking stationary external objects (presumably the corner of a room, or a window or door) the system can extrapolate how the visor is moving, and it can also track the motion controllers.

The upside of this is easy set up and a self-contained experience. Hololens is an untethered experience that you can presumably put on anywhere and use. The Acer visor is tethered but at least doesn’t require any other set up other than plugging it in.

The downside is that the system can only track things you’re looking at. If you think about, say, a tennis game, the system wouldn’t be able to track your hand directly when you reached behind yourself for a serve. (As far as I can tell the visor doesn’t have any backwards facing sensors.) That said, the system probably has a rough idea of where your hand is based on the last place it was “seen” and gyroscope (or some other kind of) data from the controllers.

This year the presenters studiously avoided talking about gaming and mixed reality, instead urging us to look forward to learning more at E3 next month. I assume Microsoft’s E3 press event is going to talk a lot about mixed reality.

If Microsoft is smart, the same visor will work on your Windows PC and your Xbox. That seems like an obvious thing but remember they tried to sell Kinect for Windows as a separate SKU from Kinect for Xbox. I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake again, though.

The $400 price point for the visor and controllers is potentially disruptive (more so if the same visor can be moved from the Xbox to a PC easily). The Playstation VR bundle, which includes the visor, controllers and the camera you need to make is all work, is $500 and it’s currently the cheapest full VR experience (stuff like the Gear VR that uses a cell phone is cheaper, of course). The Acer is $100 less and presumably can be used for AR and VR. The form factor is that of a VR visor but the forward facing cameras mean is should be possible to project the real world into the visor in order to make it “virtually transparent.”

Of course how well this works will depend on the quality of the cameras and the displays inside the visor. If nothing else I hope we get a ‘peekaboo’ feature where we can tap a button and see the world around us without taking the visor off. Helpful for checking to see if that thump you just heard was the dog knocking something over or aliens coming into your house to abduct you. (Hey just because I’m paranoid it doesn’t mean the aliens AREN’T after me.)

If you’re a developer you can pre-order a devkit that includes just the Acer visor for $299. It ships in August, which seems pretty late if MS expects support for the holiday season.

My expectation for E3 is that Microsoft will announce Project Scorpio bundled with the Acer Mixed Reality set for $799. I’m basing that on my expectation that Project Scorpio alone will be $499, so the bundle will save you $100 off of buying the two items separately, and I’m sure it’ll include some kind of software. Either a game or a demo disk or something. Of course the Mixed Reality bundle (and Project Scorpio) will both be available separately as well.

What I’m not sure of is whether the Acer visor will require Scorpio or if it’ll support the original Xbox One in some scaled down capacity.

I’ve also read some hopeful speculation that Microsoft might surprise us and launch Scorpio earlier than expected…potentially in August. The idea is that they’d want to get the new console out in time for all the big fall releases like Destiny 2. If the Acer dev kit isn’t shipping until August, and the retail version not until (presumably) the November timeframe, I think it makes an August Scorpio launch less likely. I think MS is going to want to introduce these two products at once. They seem pretty serious about succeeding in mixed reality.

I guess we’ll learn more next month!

Why do you hate Windows 8?

I’m seeing a lot of comments around the social networks from people who seem really passionate in their hatred for Windows 8.

I’ve been running it on my laptop since it launched and on my desktop (which I use for probably 12 hours a day) since last weekend, and I’m really quite pleased with Microsoft’s new OS so far. I find it to be much faster in terms of UI response, and I think the Start Screen is a huge improvement over the Start Menu (finding things on my system is way faster with the Start Screen than it was with the Start Menu, and popping open the Start Screen feels faster then opening the Start Menu), though I can still just use Fences on my Desktop if I prefer. I also am thrilled that I can have different task bars on each of my two monitors, and though this isn’t really critical, I’m happy to be able to run different desktop wallpaper on each monitor.

What’s really odd is I find I use the mouse less than I did in Windows 7. Sure Windows 8 works great with a touchscreen (well, I’m assuming that…haven’t tried it myself) but there are enough keyboard shortcuts that navigating around has me using the mouse less than I ever did (it could be many of these keyboard shortcuts always existed and I never bothered to learn them).

Anyway, like I said I see a lot of “Windows 8 sucks!” level comments but few of them with actual reasons why. I’d love to hear why people are switching to, or threatening to switch to, Ubuntu (good choice!) or Mac (awful choice!) because of the new OS.

Windows 8 upgraders: be careful with the free Windows 8 Media Center Pack code

Windows 8 Pro doesn’t come with Windows Media Center installed; instead it’s an add-on option. The good news is that until the end of January you can get it for free by going to this page and entering your email address. You’ll be sent a license key for “Windows 8 Media Center Pack.”

I went through the process on my laptop and it took a few hours before the key arrived, but everything worked.

When I upgraded my desktop I filled out the form again, but I got impatient and decided to see if the key I got for my laptop would work a second time. Since it’s a free key and I gave them no info other than an email address I figured it was worth a shot.

Windows happily accepted the key, installed the Media Center Pack, rebooted that machine and then announced that my copy of Windows was not activated because the key I’d entered was in use on another machine.

I checked it out and my Windows license key now appeared to be the Media Center Pack key. So I found my receipt and got my original Windows 8 Pro upgrade key and entered it. I was told that key wasn’t valid for this edition of Microsoft Windows. It appears Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Pro with Media Center are considered separate products as far as license keys are concerned.

I couldn’t figure out a way to ‘back out’ of the Windows 8 Media Center Pack installation to return my machine to a Windows 8 Pro install. I was stuck with an un-activated copy of Windows.

After asking on some forums someone suggested trying to activate via phone. I did that and for some reason it worked and now I’m out of that jam…I hope. I’m waiting to see one or other of my machines revert to un-activated at any moment.

Now this was my fault for trying to use the same key twice, but I’m drawing attention to it because it seems (from what I’m reading on support forums) that if you request more than one Media Center Pack key from the same email address, you’ll get the same key sent to you several times. So if like me you install the upgrade on two machines and ask for a Media Center key twice and happen to use the same email address to do it (which is likely) you’ll get the same key and you might not notice until after you’d sent yourself down the rat-hole that I sent myself down.

If you need a 2nd Media Center key for a second upgrade, best bet is to request it using a different email address.

Another odd Windows 8 issue – “the extended attributes are inconsistent”

I’ve been running Windows 8 Pro on my laptop for a week now and really digging it, so I decided to update my main system.

Everything went well until I tried to install some software, when I encountered a pop-up error saying “The extended attributes are inconsistent.” Well of course they are! All I needed to do was to homogenize the attributes and all would be well right? Wait, what?

So I’ll spare you the long story, but it turns out this can happen if you install a new theme (I picked a lovely autumn one!) that changes your sound settings. Changing the theme back to the default one should fix it, but an even less drastic solution is to open your sound settings (search for “Change System Sounds” in the Settings category) scroll down to Windows User Account Control, and set the sound to (None). That should make the problem go away.

For a detailed explanation of what’s going on, check out this link where some guy who is my hero spent a lot of time tracking down what the heck was going on:


Hopefully Microsoft will patch this issue out soon, but until then it’s a pretty easy fix.

Journalist questions Felicia Day’s relevance. Internet explodes. Journalist loses job.

[I actually wrote this post for my blog over at ITworld.com but they’re doing some work behind the scenes over there so I can’t post. Since this is a fairly time-sensitive topic I decided to just post it here, even if it’s a bit off-topic. Ergo you won’t find my usual level of snark and cynicism in this post.]

One young journalist learned the power of social networking over the weekend. Said lesson ended with him out of a job.

Ryan Perez writes about video games. Until this weekend he was at Destructoid. Friday night he hopped on Twitter to share his thoughts on Felicia Day, actress and web content producer. Ms. Day celebrates being a geek and she has a large following in the gaming community.

Perez tweeted: “Does Felicia Day matter at all? I mean does she actually contribute anything useful to this industry, besides retaining a geek persona?

He followed this with a pair of tweets directed at Ms. Day:

First: “@feliciaday, I keep seeing everywhere. Question: Do you matter at all? Do you even provide anything useful to gaming, besides “personality?

Second:@feliciaday, could you be considered nothing more than a glorified booth babe? You don’t seem to add anything creative to the medium.

This happened late Friday night (technically early Saturday morning) and, given that Ryan Perez had 48 followers, not much happened.

Then Saturday night, Veronica Belmont (who has 1.6 million followers) brought wide attention to Perez’s tweets: “@destructoid Hey, your writer is a ******* ****. But you probably already knew that. cc: @Dtoid pic.twitter.com/1ThlHCPZ

That really started the ball rolling, and within 2 hours Destructoid responded.

1:We would like to apologize re: comments made by one of our contributors toward @feliciaday and state publicly @Dtoid does not share them.

2:We have great respect for the contributions @feliciaday has made both to the culture and business of games and online entertainment

3: We hope that @feliciaday and her fans will be understanding. Thank you.

And then 2 hours after that: “Destructoid has ended its relationship with Ryan Perez, effective immediately. We again apologize to @feliciaday and all others concerned.

Phew! What a night of drama!

Later Perez apologized (via Twitter) to Ms. Day, saying he was drunk, really didn’t know who she was and that he was new to twitter and thought an @reply was private. (Would that have made things any better?) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc.)

By then it was too late and the Court of Public Opinion had already passed sentence. It probably didn’t help that at the time of his initial Felicia Day tweet his Twitter bio read: “I’ve been a gamer for about 1.412 seconds. In that time, I’ve written for GamePro, Bitmob, and now I write for Destructoid. I love the smell of busty women.” [emphasis mine] He listed http://www.destructoid.com as his website.

He later changed the last line to “I love YOU, fine people of Twitter and when I last checked it had changed to “I like curing AIDS, comforting inmates on Death Row, helping children or something, clouds, fluffy dogs, bright colors and l Julia Roberts movies.

There’s a lot of discussion going on around this. Lots of people support Perez’s right to say whatever he wants on his personal twitter account. These people fault Destructoid for cutting ties with him. (Perez says that he suggested it, just as a way to limit damage to the site.) Other people think Destructoid did the right thing and that Perez should be outcast from society and made to live on a desert island without internet, or something (I’m extrapolating a bit).

As for Ms. Day, she’s kept pretty silent about the entire debacle, though she did reply to Perez’s apology tweets, saying@PissedOffRyno I accept your apology, genuinesly hope you mean it, and hope this can end all the hostility being flung both ways.

This whole spectacle is pretty interesting, in my opinion. I think in the realm of internet insults, Perez’s comments were fairly tame. I think it was the Booth Babe remark that really got him in trouble since gender issues are a hot issue in gaming right now. (For good reason: see Harassment, Misogyny and Silencing on YouTube and Opinion: Video games and Male Gaze – are we men or boys?.) I’m not sure that he deserved to lose his job over these comments, but at the same time I think Destructoid made a smart business decision in distancing itself from him.

I find it really peculiar that a person who writes about video games didn’t know who Felicia Day is, since so much of her online content is directly associated with gaming. The Guild is a web series based on a group of MMO players and it was what really launched Day’s web career. She’s also done a live action Dragon Age series Dragon Age: Redemption and gaming is a big part of her Geek & Sundry label. And of course her character plays D&D with Fargo on the SyFy series Eureka. Love her or hate her, I think every gamer who is active online must know who she is.

And lastly, that “I love the smell of busty women” line in his original bio says a lot about his attitude towards women. I have no idea why Ryan Perez decided to have a go at Felicia Day Friday night, but I wonder how it’ll turn out for him. He’s gone from 48 followers to 3,289 as of Sunday afternoon; probably more exposure than he ever would’ve gotten without this controversy. I expect once the heat level drops a bit he’ll wind up being hired by some other publication and having a higher profile than he ever had at Destructoid. But we’ll see.

Anyway I’ve droned on long enough. I’d love to hear some other opinions on all of this. Did Perez get what he deserved or did Destructoid overreact? And what about this “lynch mob” mentality on Twitter? Is it justified? Is it fair? Please share in the comments below!

The negative influence of community

Chris over at Levelcapped has started a series called The Theory of Geekdom where he’s exploring “…why geeks are the way they are, what it means for them, and what it means in their relationship with the non-geek mainstream.” All he’s got so far is an introduction, but knowing Chris it’s going to be an interesting series. No pressure, buddy!

As grist for his mill, I wanted to share one micro-experience I just had, as relates to gamers and community and how negative we can be, and how that negativity influences (some) people around you.

I got into the Firefall beta yesterday morning. While I was at work I had the client download, so as soon as I got home I jumped in and played a few missions and really enjoyed myself. But I only got 10-15 minutes before the dog needed walking, dinner needed eating and so on. During this downtime I was pondering the game and everything I didn’t know about it, so the next time I had a moment I jumped on the forums to learn what I could.

Sadly they were typical game forums. Some people trying to give honest feedback and other people shouting them down, calling them inferior gamers, telling them to learn to play and so on. And that was in one thread (the guy had voiced his opinion that the first missions are a bit too hard since he’d died several times).

I quit my browser and got ready for a scheduled Guild Wars gaming session. That session got cut short after about an hour so I fired Firefall back up.

And I didn’t really like it. I played for all of 5 minutes and then quit to play TERA.

So, I play the game and enjoy it. 5 hours later I play the game and don’t enjoy it. What changed? The game obviously didn’t change. I did. And what changed in me?

Suddenly I was seeing the people around me as “those assholes from the forums” instead of as other gamers having fun, and now I didn’t want to have anything to do with them, so I was playing the game like a single player game. Instead of banding together with other players and helping them burn down enemies I was avoiding people and looking for empty spaces to play in.

Just to be clear, the Firefall forums aren’t any worse than the forums of any other online game; I’ve yet to find an ‘official forum’ that wasn’t absolutely vile. And also just to be clear, I’m not a fan of trolls. I do, however, know a troll. There’s a kid I work with who finds trolling endlessly amusing. He legitimately enjoys getting people aggravated and upset and sees absolutely nothing wrong with it, and in fact finds it hilarious. He can’t understand why I don’t also find it hilarious.

In all other aspects, this kid (who is also a gamer) is a really nice guy. In spite of being a troll, he’s always willing to lend a helping hand and get things done. He’s the kind of guy who always lets everyone know when he’s running out to get lunch or whatever, and asks if we want him to pick up anything while he’s out. He’s generally well-liked in the office. I even like him…when he’s not trolling.

But I digress. The point is, if you’re a troll you probably think it’s really stupid that I let what goes on in a forum influence the way I play the game associated with that forum. And I even know, intellectually, that it’s stupid, but this is an emotional thing. I try to deny it but the fact is, I now think all Firefall players are asshats and I’m going to treat them accordingly. Which of course is just going to detract from the in-game community in some small way.

The worst part about gaming forums is that 80% of the population can be friendly and helpful, but the 20% who are trolls are going to make the entire place feel like a cesspit. When you ask “What key do I use to take a screenshot?” you won’t remember the person that simply replies “Print Screen” but you will remember the person who replies:

First, search the forums before you ask your dumbass question. There are a 100 threads asking how to take screenshots. Second, how the hell did you get into this beta if you’ve never played an online game before? You must not have ever played a game if you don’t know how to take a screenshot because every game uses the same damn key. Maybe do a little research before you open your mouth and prove to the world what a dumbass you are. I swear I miss alpha when these forums weren’t filled with stupid noobs filling up the place with stupid threads like this one.

So how do we fix this? I don’t think we can. I think this is a symptom of a greater disease. Until we culturally start thinking more about the impact we have on people around us, any anonymous gathering of gamers is going to be vile because there’s always going to be a few trolls who are determined to make it vile.

The only hope I have for the future of Gamers is PAX. When all these people gather in person, the 80% tend to overwhelm the 20% and the overall vibe is really positive. Why? Well first, some percentage of trolls moderate their behavior when they’re in danger of getting a fist in the face. But aside from that, how is it that the gamer bullies are overwhelmed by the friendly gamers dressed like Pikachu? I think it’s because everyone is 100% devoted to being there at PAX. I think on forums, a lot of us are there to get info and get out, while the trolls are just hanging out in there all day trying to piss people off for laughs. Because of this, although they may be 20% of the population they’re generating 60% of the posts. [making numbers up here]

Aside from better moderation (which is a minefield for the moderators) I’m not sure what the answers are. I just think it’s a shame that so many communities are undermined by people like my troll co-worker (scariest part? he’s a psychology major. Or maybe psychiatry… I forget which) who take delight in making others miserable.

A final word: This post focused on the negative side of community but of course there are many positive sides as well. I’m not denying that. Though I’d argue that most positive communities are smaller and somewhat exclusive.

Gadgets and killer apps (Acer Iconia A500)

A couple of weeks ago I bought my first Android tablet, the Acer Iconia A500. This in spite of owning an iPad, which I love. So why a second tablet? Mostly curiosity, backed by the fact that I write a lot about Android tablets on my ITworld blog and I always feel more secure writing about a topic if I have real-world, hands-on experience. Yeah, I could’ve gone into a store and played around with an Android tablet, but that doesn’t compare to living with a device.

So far, I’m really enjoying the Iconia. Is it a “better” tablet than the iPad? No, I don’t think so. iOS is more refined than Honeycomb (the version of Android made for tablets), more stable (the Iconia locks up probably once a day) and there’re a lot more apps available for iOS. Also keep in mind my experience is with an iPad 1.

And yet these days when I reach for a tablet, I generally grab the Iconia. Weird, no? Part of it is the ‘new’ factor, but after naval gazing for a while I’ve come to realize it’s mostly about a “killer app.” In this context, a killer app is that one program that just sings to you, personally. It might not be the best or the most popular, but it just fits for you.

In my case, the killer app is Feedly for Honeycomb. Feedly pulls in my Google Reader feeds and presents them in a nice browsable format. There are a ton of apps that do this, and in fact Feedly is available for the iPad too. But I like Feedly on the Iconia. It just feels right.

Feedly only runs in portrait mode, and the Iconia is narrower and longer than the iPad when held in a portrait orientation. That makes Feedly feel like I’m reading a magazine. Each page has a list of new stories. I can tap one to drill down into full content, and from there (if needed) I can choose to open the story in a web browser (I use Dolphin HD on Android). Generally I only need to do this if there’s embedded video. Feedly’s built-in browser doesn’t handle video.

If there’s nothing on a page that I want to read, I just swipe to go to the next page, and Feedly marks all the stories read (you can disable this if you like). If I want to save something for later, Feedly supports Instapaper, which is a tool I lean on heavily.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a Feedly review. But it’s just odd to me that this one free app is what makes the Iconia my preferred tablet these days (unless I want to play games…the iPad is still better for that just due to the number of titles available). Well, the Feedly app and the different proportions of the Iconia tablet.

I never would have discovered this combination by playing around with a tablet in the store, and now I just love it. I also prefer the Dolphin browser to iOS Safari (or Android’s built-in browser) for general surfing, too. I find myself laying in bed at night, reading my feeds just like they’re a magazine, now. It’s killing my book reading, though! (Although that reminds me, I like reading Kindle books on the Iconia more than on the iPad, too…again because its narrower and longer. Shorter lines but, I’m guessing, the same number of page turns.) I’ve moved from Evernote to Springpad because of their Honeycomb client, too.

Huh, so Feedly got my foot in the door but I guess I’m really gravitating to more and more Android apps. I didn’t realize that, really, until I started writing this.

Anyway I was wondering if I’m just weird, or if other people have gadgets that they love just due to a specific feature?

I still might trade in the Iconia for the Galaxy Tab when it comes out next month, but I want to see what the proportions are. I’m a little leery of switching at this point, to be honest.

Sony considering an iPad app for PSN digital comics?

I just was asked to take a survey about my experience with digital comics from the PlayStation Network (currently for reading on the PSP). Reading between the lines, so to speak, it sounds like Sony is judging user interest towards accessing their digital comics on other hardware besides the PSP. Specifically mentioned were a PC, the PS3, and the iPad/tablet computers.

There’re already several digital comics sellers who’ve set up house on the iPad so it might be a tough nut for Sony to crack, but I’d love to be able to buy a digital comic and read it on my PSP or my iPad, depending on what was handy.

Again, this was just a survey so there’s no telling how seriously they’re considering the idea. I just found it interesting that they’d even think about jumping to Apple hardware.

Transitioning from Comcast to FIOS

So we switched ISP & TV providers today, going from Comcast to FIOS. Now a lot of people hate Comcast, but I don’t. Our service has been very reliable over the years. We switched to save money, and for better internet speed.

We had an appointment window of 8 am – noon today. At about 11 we got a call saying the tech was running late and he’d be here by 1. He got here about 1:20. Installation took until just about 5 pm. The tech was friendly and pretty helpful. In fact he was a little too helpful in some ways.

We still have Comcast service active and stuff on our Comcast DVR we wanted to watch. The FIOS tech disconnected the Comcast set-top box and tucked the Comcast cables inside the wall. This makes sense, really, but I wish he’d let me know he was going to do it. When the Comcast set-top box loses power for a length of time it sort of resets. When I hooked it back up, it didn’t have a signal back to the Comcast mothership and so couldn’t re-initialize the DVR features. So we lost all the stuff we had on the DVR (unless I want to remove the wall plate and fish around in there for the Comcast cable and drag it out). That was a bummer.

Anyway I’ll take all the stuff back to Comcast’s offices tomorrow and have them shut down my service immediately, I guess.

On the internet side, the FIOS Actiontec router replaced the Comcast cable modem and my LinkSys router. The technician dutifully transferred all the ethernet cables to the FIOS router, including an uplink to a hub I have. He pulled out all the now-superfluous equipment, leaving things neater than when he arrived.

However, in initializing the router he had to use my computer, and while doing so he installed some Verizon software without telling me what he was doing. I later had to reboot and had a EULA for this software pop-up when my system started. I declined to accept the EULA and removed the Verizon software. So far that doesn’t seem to have hurt anything.

I asked for the admin password for the router. The Tech was willing to give it to me, but we couldn’t get it to work. He called FIOS HQ and even with their help, the ‘correct’ password wouldn’t work. In the end he did a hard reset of the router and we logged in with the default admin password of password1 (in case you have a FIOS router, that’s how you get in… do a hard reset and use admin/password1).

I started asking him about changing the SSID and going from WEP to WPA and he pretty much admitted I was now talking over his head. He left me to “knock myself out” in setting up the router the way I wished, and headed to his next job. Yeah, he was going off to start a new install at 5 pm!

The ActionTec router has a clunky UI. I changed the password, switched the security to WPA, changed the SSID and started adding MAC address filters. Every time I added a new MAC address to the filters, it seemed to turn off security. Happily I noticed this and could turn it back on but had I not, I would’ve left the wireless network totally open.

The FIOS TV Guide/DVR is a horror show. I really hate it. Everything feels like it’s 5 menu options deep. The search kind of sucks and they overload you with information. When I’m looking for a show, I just want to know when it’s on and what channel, I don’t need a link to search on everyone who is a cast member.

But what really puzzles me is that the tv guide seems to be showing me information from last week. So the episodes of Eureka and Haven that are on tomorrow night have the descriptions from the episodes that were on last week over on Comcast! Maybe the guide just needs time to update.

With the Comcast DVR now dead and nothing on the FIOS DVR yet, I fired up the Roku…but it wasn’t getting an internet connection. Hmm. Tried the PS3 and again got an error. Oddly it was getting an IP address but having DNS issues. After some fiddling around I just ran through the network connection wizards on both devices, essentially setting them up like they were new. That seemed to clear up the problem on both of them. But it was weird.

In the end we turned to Hulu Plus on the PS3 for some dinner TV watching. The first attempt, the Hulu+ feed started jerky and then just slowed down until we were getting an update about every 5 seconds. I exited the application, re-entered it and had better luck. I never saw this problem with Comcast, FWIW.

After dinner I decided to fire up OnLive to see how well that worked with my supposed 25/25 FIOS internet service. OnLive ended up giving me a warning that my network connection was dropping frequently and my experience might be sub-par. I went ahead anyway, started playing. Gameplay was jerkier and laggier than I’ve ever seen it while using Comcast, and eventually OnLive just gave up. It told me my internet connection wasn’t good enough to support OnLive and dumped to desktop.

I rebooted my PC (which was when I saw that EULA and subsequently removed the Verizon software) and tried OnLive again. It was better, but still didn’t feel as solid as it did on Comcast.

That’s how far I’ve gotten. Compared to Comcast, FIOS has an uglier user guide and less reliable internet, at least so far. InternetFrog says I’m getting 22 Mbps down and 8 Mbps up as I type this at 10 pm. So sheer download bandwidth seems fine but it seems like packets are dropping somewhere when using Hulu+ and OnLive. And 8 Mbps up? When I’m paying for 25? That’s pretty bad.

I probably won’t be truly happy with FIOS until I get the first bill and save money over Comcast. Right now it just feels like we’ve undergone a lot of headache for no real benefit. So far, I’m not a fan of FIOS. I’m hoping that changes.