Addicted to Solace

I go through periods of being addicted to computer games. My shame (if that’s the right word) is that instead of being addicted to the “cool” games like EverQuest or Final Fantasy, I find these random games that no one else is playing to get hooked on.

The latest is Solace, from Freeverse, a small developer who specializes in entertaining, clever versions of card and board games (and who also became infamous for their Jared, the Butcher of Song). Solace starts out a lot like Risk or Axis and Allies, with six powers facing off across several continents and a lot of territory to conquer. Then it adds some quirks like sea battles, amphibious assaults, artillery defense, and cavalry shock troops. You have to be able to master sea combat if you want to win; there are no other ways to grow your territory, and it’s a lot easier to defend your country from sea attack if you head them off in the open ocean.

Criticisms? The game crashed once when I left it running unattended for a while, and the computer turns are quite slow. But overall I’m hooked. And at least it means I’m not playing Burning Monkey Solitaire.

(Incidentally, I categorized this under Mac, but both Solace and BMS are cross platform. As is Jared.)

Patch management critiques

Scott Berinato’s article in CIO Magazine about the dangers of patch management, “FrankenPatch,” discusses the issues around patch management, the problems that come about with trying to keep on top of patches, what happens when patches break things, etc.

It suggests that the right approach is to be watchful, and to patch selectively and late after others have worked out the kinks, and to not disclose vulnerabilities so as not to give hackers a roadmap to exploit the problem.

Eminently sensible.

Except for this one small problem: in a highly networked world, where worms can infect all the world’s vulnerable systems in less than ten minutes, it’s hard to make a case that selective patching and risk management makes things better. In fact, I’d argue that it gives virus writers a broader target.

And not disclosing vulnerabilities? Smells like liability lawsuit to me. Even if it didn’t, though, I think we as software makers have an ethical obligation to fix vulnerabilities and tell customers about what we fixed.

An interesting factual error too: Berinato mischaracterizes MSDE (the Microsoft SQL Desktop Engine) as embedded database connection software. It’s actually a database engine that a developer can embed in a desktop application.

That said, applying the patches that prevent Slammer was a truly painful process.

Harry Potter y tu mamá también

The preview trailer for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has been released. This is the first movie not to be directed by Chris “let’s face it, I direct children’s movies” Columbus, and the trailer shows hints of Alfonso Cuarón’s approach: the choir of children singing “something wicked this way comes,” Snape and Draco Malfoy not looking like pure villains, the generally darker cinematography, the dread hand of the Dementor… The question is, how much of it is due to the new director, and how much to the generally darker tone of the third book? Hard to tell from just a trailer, but I like the note of dark humor that I detect in the choir.

iTunes and Playlistism

Hysterical article in the Wesleyan Argus, pointed to by Wired, about how sharing one’s iTunes playlists sometimes reveals more about oneself than one intends—and can either lead others to idolize or ostracize you. It’s called playlistism. And it’s almost certainly for real.

At work, I had to change the default name on my iTunes shared music (the name defaults to your computer name, which defaults to my email address) because I was getting too much grief about even using iTunes—this on the first day it was out, when one could be forgiven for experimenting. So I changed the name to “The Boney King of Nowhere.” Now I find I have random people tuned in from time to time. Have I become a recipient of reverse playlistism? Am I now some kind of pirate radio station?

Moxie’s Jeremiad

Moxie nails a theme that I’ve been thinking about since the fires in Southern California last month: that disasters are waiting in the wings like process servers to hit California. In her “next up for the golden state? earthquakes,” she points out, “Late fall heatwaves, fires, famine, no public transit, floods, hail, thunder and lightning storms? All in less than one month. It would seem the gods are unhappy with Los Angeles.”

Moxie lays the blame on NBC, “Gigli,” “Love, Actually,” and Paris Hilton’s video. Me? I think it’s interesting that this all started after the recall election. But it’s a good thing there aren’t volcanoes in SoCal, and it never ever snows.

Blog less, email more?

I’ve been a little quiet here lately—but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I had a backlog of email from people with questions about my genealogical research: lots of interest in the Brenneman family, for whatever reason, plus an assortment of Freeman and Jarrett questions.

I should probably instrument the genealogy pages to see how many people find my site through them. I’m afraid I’d find that they draw many more readers than my blog does, though. 🙂

Working fix for CDDB lookups in iTunes for Windows

Since the release of iTunes for Windows, I haven’t been able to get it to connect to the CDDB to get track information for my CDs. Judging from the activity on Apple’s discussion boards, I’m not alone. Today I found a fix that works on the board, involving turning off the use of proxy servers and deleting a registry key (see linked post for details). I don’t think Apple did a lot of testing of these features with machines that sat behind corporate firewalls and proxy servers…

How shall we sing in a strange land?

I sang for the first time at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle on Sunday. The group was a pick-up men’s chorus made up of men from the Cathedral Choir and from the general congregation, which is how I got to participate. For having only half an hour of rehearsal I thought it went quite well.

There was also an interesting discussion during the service with US Marine Colonel Andy Hutchison, a reservist who was called away from his work at Boeing (and membership in UPC) to become deputy for Logistics Operations for the Marines during the Iraq war and subsequent occupation (article mentioning Andy’s work here). He spoke about his faith and the progress being made in Iraq. Acknowledging the bad news that was coming from Iraq, he also discussed his witness first hand of the relief of the Iraqi people of being out from under the Hussein regime. It was interesting hearing the voice from the front lines.

Pictures from San Francisco

two round headed kids

I finally found my Bluetooth adapter, so I moved all the photos off the phonecam from last weekend. I’m especially fond of the photos from Santa Rosa (see right), of the town’s most famous resident.

It was a cold morning, but we walked out early for espresso. I had to see the statue, after having read about it on the museum website. That is, of course, The Great Pumpkin next to the statue, placed there on Halloween apparently.