To Drive or Not To Drive

In two days, the next in the Need For Speed series of games will be released in Canada. I've been really excited about this release as it has many of the features that I've been waiting to see in a game of this caliber. Players will be able to create teams, where you collect digital 'friends' along the way who will help you win races by keeping competitors out of the way. This is something I've wanted since Need for Speed:Underground when the computer opponents would often times catch the tail end of your car, and nudge you into a wall at 260 kph as you make that final corner before the finish line. I'm sure the neighbours have heard my reaction whenever this happens…

But as I examine the "Minimum System Requirements" for this game, it makes me wonder whether I should even try to play the game. As it sits, I have the bare minimum processor, and a barely capable video card in my notebook. Add to the fact that I have a notebook, and that just compounds the limitations further. Single core … non-upgradable components … 5400 rpm hard drive … the list is shamefully extensive.

Several years ago, I would have laughed at the Minimum System Requirements, thinking to myself "who still has such old equipment?" Back in the day, I was at the forefront of home PC technology. Dual processors, 2 Gig of RAM when it was still $400 per gig, RAID 0 across six hard drives, and a video card that was more powerful than most PCs at that time.

But that was almost six years ago, when I could easily drop $1400 in upgrades for my already over-powered PC. Before I had moved from Ontario, I had actually bought an air conditioner for the room my PC was in. It ran that hot.

I don't play many games, anymore. Need for Speed is one of the few that I still enjoy as it gives me the opportunity to drive around cities wrecklessly while racing other cars. I enjoy the rush that comes during the really difficult races. Winning by 0.05 seconds is much more exciting than winning by a full second, or even 12 seconds. Driving against heavy traffic is also incredibly enjoyable as it adds an element to the races that make it all the more difficult. Cars get in the way, opponents are pushing you from the side or behind, causing your ride to slide … and despite all this, you drift through three lanes of heavily populated cars to make the final corner perfectly as you step on the gas and drop the clutch in the final leg of the race …

That's where the exicitement lays.

But as I look at these requirements, I'm forced to examine whether this would be a good investment. Would I be able to enjoy the game, even at reduced video settings with all the cool factors turned down? Or would this be the onion in the ointment? I play need for speed to relax and unwind, even though it might seem as though the opposite were true.

My notebook is three years old, and in my possession for two. I've been wanting to replace it with a newer model since January of this year, but just haven't had the opportunity or found the proper justification. I can't just run out and buy the latest and greatest of something anymore because it leaves me with the question "what do I do with the old one?" Sure, I could put it to use somewhere … but why? This notebook here has surpassed all of my expectations. I've never owned a computer as long as I have this one, and certainly never been able to go so long without upgrades or repairs of one type or another.

This box lets me write software in several different languages, watch downloaded TV shows, movies, documentaries and whatever else I want to view. The wireless network card has transmitted terabytes of data as I'm almost constantly downloading something while at home. And it's given me a new appreciation for quality built machines. Quite frankly, this notebook could easily last me another year or two at the minimum before I would be forced to consider an upgrade to keep in stride with the upcoming Windows Vista operating system.

In the last few years it has been harder and harder to keep up with the pace of progress. Not only because of the cost factors, but because I try to justify my purchases better. Saying it's okay to spend $600 on a new video card just because it's "cool" doesn't cut it anymore. For the last year, I've been promised a new notebook through work. I figured this would be the prime upgrade for me. I had requested a nice HP model to replace my current HP notebook, and when it was ready to be replaced again, it would be the responsibility of my employer. The only catch I might have to face is what I would do about all my personal software … I would almost feel guilty installing video games or watching inappropriate material on a work-owned notebook.

So at the end of the day, I'm still left with the question of whether to drive, or not to drive. Need for Speed:Carbon will be one of the most exciting releases for this series. But if I can't enjoy it even remotely, the game would become more of a wasted liability than an investment. The argument could be made to get a new notebook (I'm really taken by the HP NC8430 and NW8440 models) and enjoy the newer technology for the next few years … but if this notebook here will do the job for a little longer, then why spend $2000 on a new PC for the sake of enjoying a video game and loading some other software a little faster?

I wonder if I could push the question of new machines at work again …

Photoshop Isn't the Over-Glorified Paintbrush I Remember

Over the last few months, I've found that I've needed to use Photoshop more and more. This strikes me as odd, considering how I haven't needed it for a single touch-up in over four years. But now that I've built an intranet at work, as well as putting up this simple WordPress site, it seems that Photoshop has once again become part of my regular tools.

I've taken more pictures since meeting Reiko than I have in my entire life. Everything seems more interesting and has more colour when I'm with her, so why not capture those moments with a camera? Of course, those images then need to be sized, trimmed, re-touched or down-right modified before being posted online (if posted at all). That's not to say that every picture needs to be touched up … just one ones that need to sit at a 11.5 degree counter-clockwise rotation, like the picture in the upper left hand corner.

The version of Photoshop that's currently installed on my notebook is CS. I realise that this is an "older" version, but seriously, for what I do with images, I could easily get away with Photoshop 4. Layers, overlays, text manipulation and simple transformations are all I really do (and understand). I'm sure that over the next few months I'll learn how to do very cool things like alter skin tones or change backgrounds as well as subject lighting. But that would change the entire purpose of the picture, wouldn't it?

I love technology, don't get me wrong. But I wonder how much of a picture can be changed before the purpose of the picture is lost? A picture is a snapshot … a moment in time. By altering it, we're altering our memory of the event. People could make themselves look thinner, or heavier, or taller, or have darker or lighter skin … the list goes on. In this ever self-conscious society, how many of us will be altering our pictures to make ourselves look better?

I guess this is really a question of how much fiction will we insert into our personal histories.

While I don't think I'll be modifying these pictures to darken my skin or give myself that million dollar smile, I'll certainly make sure to never over-write the original pictures. Life is beautiful as it is. We don't need to fret over the little things.

Jason No Baka!

Okay … it's clear that I'm an idiot. For the last week I've been having trouble viewing this site properly when not at home. Other people have told me that it loads, but I don't think they've been seeing what I wanted them to see. Today I decided to change all the site's internal links to look at Port 88 (since my ISP filters out port 80 requests), and voila! It works.

I should have tried this last weekend … because now that I know the NAS will do what I need it to do (albeit, slowly), I can start loading it up with pictures and other details. It should be fun. I think I'll put up most of my comedic images, too. This way I'll have something to link to people who need to see Domokun chasing a kitten …

Over the next few days I'll try to add some of the pictures and events that occurred in Japan, as well as talk about my upcoming trip there during this Christmas break. I've managed to squeeze two weeks of vacation out of work, and I can likely extend that to three without much hassle. The biggest problem will be the amount of vacation time I'll have remaining afterwards …

Let's see what happens.

Not The Box I Was Expecting

Okay, I've had this NAS running for over a week now, and I must admit that it's not quite what I was expecting. I guess it's a good thing I didn't rush out and buy … because it seems that people can only access this site when my router has been recently reset.

Since buying a new router is out of the question right now, I guess I'll have to keep these entries short and to the point. Of course this is just a little hiccup that'll eventually be resolved. I still want :P

LAMP Up And Running

Well, it looks like it's finally running.

Yesterday I received my new NAS (Network Attached Storage) and LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) box while at work. It's nothing spectacular, just a simple Synology DS-101j, but it certainly gets the job done and has some pretty cool features considering it's the size of a standard 3.5" HDD enclosure.

Over the next few weeks I'll be updating this to be much more personalized, and eventually it'll have pictures from my trips to Japan, Victoria and around BC (I guess that would be Whistler, and my work).

w00t for Simplicity!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Okay, it's a cheap entry since it was clearly not written the same day as I was born … but here we go.

In April of 1979:

  • April 1 - Iran's government becomes an Islamic Republic by a 98% vote, overthrowing Shah officially
  • April 1 - 18 - Police lock Andreas Mihavecz in a holding cell in Bregenz, Austria, and forget him there without food or drink.
  • April 1 - Nickelodeon Television Channel, a children's cartoon channel, launches as The Pinwheel Network.
  • April 2 - Sverdlovsk Anthrax leak: A Soviet biowarfare laboratory at Sverdlovsk accidentally releases airborne anthrax spores, killing 66 plus an unknown amount of livestock.
  • April 3 - My parents navigate through a snow storm to the hospital in Georgetown, Ontario to bring me into the world
  • April 4 - President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan is executed.
  • April 8 - Alexi Laiho from Children of Bodom is born.
  • April 10 - A tornado hits Wichita Falls, Texas, killing 42 people (the most notable of 26 that hit that day).
  • April 11 - Tanzanian troops take Kampala, the capital of Uganda; Idi Amin flees.
  • April 17 - Schoolchildren in the Central African Empire are arrested (and around 100 killed) for protesting against compulsory school uniforms. An African judicial commission later determines that Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa "almost certainly" took part in the massacre.
  • April 23 - Fighting in London between the Anti-Nazi League and the Metropolitan Police's Special Patrol Group results in the death of protestor Blair Peach.

Though times have changed between then and now (whenever "now" is), people have not.